The fitness of things

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“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

Those words are from Winston Churchill, a member of Parliament in both the Labor and Tory ranks at times until he became Great Britain’s prime minister. Today’s politicians should study these and other words from Sir Winston.

In Nevada, legislators this week in Carson City mouth reasonable words in public but, for the most part, keep doing what their counterparts on the national stage do in Washington, D.C. Unlike Sir Winston, they run scared and stumble over each other.

Far be it from me to call Nevada officials fanatic, but few of them change their minds (let alone parties) and many harp on subjects until you barf.

Perhaps Nevada political posturing is a microcosm of what goes on in Washington, but refreshing differences crop up in each place. Let’s look at two national players and then return to Nevada.

Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, just announced he won’t seek a third term. The moderate Democrat cited “brain-dead partisanship” as one reason. He called for Senate reforms and an end to gerrymandering of House districts.

The former governor, who prefers executive to legislative chores, said there are various ways for people to make contributions in business, education, charitable work.

More than a year ago, another mid-continent politician from the other party announced he wouldn’t run for reelection this year.

Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond, R-Missouri, also was a governor before going to Washington. He had been Missouri’s youngest governor and said he didn’t yearn to become its oldest senator. Bond also said fellow Republicans and the Democrats need to work together for the common good regarding economics, housing, terrorism, etc.

“In a world where enemies are real—the kind who behead others based on their religion—it is important to remember there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy,” Bond said. “Our cause is bigger than ourselves.”

Bayh and Bond represent the great middle, the place of compromise where government gets practical things done on occasion. Soon they won’t be in Congress, a dysfunctional institution growing more so as the middle collapses.

Government gridlock in national and state capitals is neither conservative nor liberal in the classic sense of those terms—it’s just nutty. Nutty, as in: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is crazy.”

Perhaps Irish poet William Butler Yeats was prescient about current U.S. politics when long ago he wrote “The Second Coming.” To borrow some pertinent words: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” and “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

But, taking a broader view, things aren’t actually that bad.

In the year between Bond’s and Bayh’s announcements, I had the privilege to watch a couple of un-elected but longtime stalwarts of the Nevada Legislative Building’s corridors elevate themselves from government-related service to higher callings.

Victoria Riley, solid lobbyist for Citizens for Justice and Nevada Justice Association, was ordained an Episcopal priest last year. Kim Morgan, former legislative staff attorney extraordinaire and an honoree on the Assembly Wall of Distinction, was ordained an Episcopal priest earlier this month in the same church—St. Peter’s of Carson City.

Like Bayh and Bond, they understand service is possible in arenas other than the political world and places where public policies are made. They know, as Sir Winston once put it, “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”