Rejecting Political Division in W.Va.
What a difference 367 miles — the distance between the West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston and the U.S. Capitol in Washington — can make.
In Washington, partisan politics has assumed an even more strident, take-no-prisoners tone than in the recent past. A substantial number of Democrat members of Congress are even boycotting the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump.
But in Charleston, Republicans and Democrats alike joined to celebrate the Monday inauguration of our new governor, Jim Justice.
“There’s no point in dividing ourselves between Republicans and Democrats and Independents,” Justice said in his inaugural speech. “Those people, I’m going to look at as friends.”
It would be easy for Republicans who control the Legislature to be at loggerheads with Justice, a Democrat. It also would be easy for the new governor to take a hard-nosed, partisan approach to lawmakers.
Both sides have chosen not to do that, however.
It is virtually certain Democrats and Republicans in state government will disagree at some point, perhaps often. Former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, a Democrat who tried hard to work with GOP leaders, found himself at odds with them on several occasions.
Leaders of the two parties should not agree on everything, after all. There are distinct, deep differences in Democrat and Republican philosophies.
Policy differences seem to be only part of the problem in Washington, however. There, partisanship for its own sake, combined with personal dislikes, are playing big roles.
It doesn’t have to be that way, as Justice and lawmakers of both parties seem to be saying this week.
Good for them. There will be time enough for disagreements and, perhaps, animosity in the future. Refusing to let party labels define relationships, at least for now, will serve West Virginians well as we attempt to tackle the many challenges facing our state.