Guest Opinion: Party loyalty should only be part of the equation

For the last year or so, I have never thought of Governor Benson as a Republican. And I’m not alone. Most spectators of the political scene have quickly observed that the governor who ran as a Republican is actually an extreme libertarian whose idea of effective state government is no government at all.

Thus it was with shock and aw shucks that I opened my newspaper last month and read that a former Republican gubernatorial candidate had attached himself to the Benson Brigade. According to the article, this was his way of positioning himself for another run for the corner office once Benson moseys off through the one-way tollbooth.

The Union Leader applauded the move, calling it “suck it up” statesmanship. I would hesitate to call the act “statesmanship,” but two of the other three words are spot on.

This is the part of the political two-step that I find most distasteful. People pose happily for pictures with people they despise. People show up for events because the “party” is sponsoring the event. People even say nice things about others even though the recipient of their verbal bouquet has an ethical rating somewhere between zero and none.

A political party, if it’s to be successful, has to have a big tent. And inside that tent there will be an assortment of people ranging from credible to crummy. But when the photographer asks everyone to line up alongside the imbecile, why do people oblige?

Granted, sometimes a politician is caught in a predicament where opting out will be highly noticeable and perhaps even rude. But “party” should be but one piece of the measurement device that thinking people use to assess the merits of an individual.

Someone told me a few weeks ago that it was wrong to judge people, that only God can do that. Say what? When two people are running for an office, you always “judge” them and decide on one or the other. Perhaps a more palatable word might be “measure.”

I “measured” Craig Benson when he came into office based on what I knew about his past. I will never forget how proud his parents looked on inauguration day. He seemed like a successful, likeable guy, and I had several pleasant conversations with him early on in his tenure, and I told him I would help him in whatever way I could.

But as his reign continued, I began to see a disturbing trait emerging. Craig Benson was not interested in being a governor, or a leader, or someone who could work within the democratic system that has served this state and nation well.

Craig wanted to be the “owner” of the state, the CEO and the imperial wizard. His total lack of people skills soon became evident as people deserted his office in droves. He brought into government a carload of cronies who quickly and consistently set about destroying state government but helped themselves along the way.

That kind of behavior is not the Republican way. Many good Republicans around the state are now realizing that their party has been hijacked. Many good Republicans around the state will either sit out November’s governor’s race or will vote for someone other than Benson. There are still many, many members in the Republican Party who understand ethics in government and won’t back anyone lacking in same.

When Benson kicked off his campaign a few weeks ago, did you see the speaker of the House in attendance? No. Did you see the president of the Senate in attendance? No. Did you see any real legislative leadership in attendance? No.

What does that say about the respect Craig Benson has garnered? What does that say about his leadership skills? It says he is both an island and a legend unto himself.

Perhaps the newest conscript to the Benson Brigade should now embark on that long-postponed world cruise and time his return for Nov. 3. That would be a positioning that will resonate with those Republicans who possess a moral code that transcends blind party loyalty.

Ted Leach is a Republican state representative from Hancock.

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