When it comes to the U.S. House of Representatives, a lot goes into the competition for leadership roles. Republicans tend to reward voting records and fundraising more than the Democrats do, but seniority is the avenue to power in both parties.
When we consider that both of our area’s representatives in the House — Chris Gibson and Richard Hanna — have just been elected to only their second terms, holding major influence would seem to be a daunting task for both Republicans.
That said, there is great opportunity for each man to seize a mantle of leadership as the country tries to sort out what it wants from its members of Congress.
After four years of fighting virtually everything President Barack Obama wanted — even traditionally Republican initiatives — the GOP has a choice. Does it continue to pursue an ideological agenda fueled by a combination of adherence to a rigid anti-tax pledge and fealty to Tea Party zealots?
Or does it learn from last week’s election and listen to the unmistakable rising voice of everyday Americans who want their representatives to put the country’s interests ahead of the political parties’ goals?
Around here, they heard Gibson and Hanna talk during the recent campaign about how independent they are. Gibson would trumpet the Washington Post referring to him as the third-most independent Republican in the House. Hanna would point out his refusals to vote to defund Planned Parenthood or sign Grover Norquist’s asinine no-new-taxes pledge.
Now, they have a chance to prove their independent bona fides. Now, each one can reach out to those in their own party and to like-minded Democrats who don’t believe that compromise is a dirty word.
Now, they can be in the vanguard of creating a sane congressional middle that can stand up to the crazies on the left and the right who insist on fighting shadows.
Or, the can just quietly serve their time in Congress, “going along to get along” and build up the seniority that leads to power and massive political contributions from special interests that want something.
We believe there is great potential in both Gibson and Hanna. They are fundamentally good and thoughtful men. Seniority shouldn’t mean much to Gibson, who has pledged that he will only serve four terms. Hanna has exhibited the courage to speak forthrightly and forcefully about some of the more-radical elements of the Republican Party.
For all the political loudmouths baying at the moon, the majority of people in this country — and in this area — crave bipartisanship. They want — and expect — Gibson and Hanna to have the courage to lead the way to honorable compromise.