Requiem for Republicans

By Duane Shank 9-22-2011

Sen. Charles Percy

Last weekend, former Senator Charles Percy of Illinois passed away. Along with former Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon,

who died a month ago, they represented the last vestiges of an era of moderate Republicans, for whom what was best for the country was more important than promoting an ideology.

When I first came to Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1973, the U.S. Senate had the kind of giants we sorely lack today.

There were Democrats such as Ted Kennedy, Phil Hart, Walter Mondale, Gaylord Nelson, Frank Church and Hubert Humphrey; and Republicans such as Hatfield and Percy, along with Edward Brooke, Jacob Javits and George Aiken. In that Congress, they passed the Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Legal Services Corporation Act, and the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act.

In today's hyper-charged partisan atmosphere, Republicans such as these would not survive.

And that kind of legislation doesn't have a chance. Instead, now there are efforts to repeal what remains of it.

We live in a society increasingly divided by wealth, poverty, political ideology, and a lack of civility in public life -- which makes it impossible for senators like Percy and Hatfield to get elected.

Our country -- and each of us as individuals -- are weakened as a result.

Duane Shank is senior policy advisor at Sojourners.

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