Public benefits when both political parties included in decision making

Republican gains in the Senate have forced Democrats to include Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt in discussions.


When the balance of power is skewed too far in one direction -- either far to the political left or right -- it can result in lawmakers losing touch with voters.

Democrats have recently held a huge majority in the House and Senate in Washington state. The views of Republicans were often ignored and sometimes quashed. Democrats sought only the views of other Democrats resulting in a group think and a distorted view of what Washingtonians are thinking.

Of course, the same thing happens when the GOP has an iron grip on power. The conversation tilts to the right and moderate views tend to be obscured.

But the Republican gains in the November election has changed the conversation in Olympia. Democrats now need Republican support to get proposals through the Legislature.

In addition, the $5 billion revenue shortfall has created such a serious budget crisis it has forced the majority and minority parties to work together.

"There wasn't even a conversation going on," said Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, referring to the past. But now, "you'll get much better public policy because you have a debate now between the two parties."

The Democrats' majority in the Senate is now just five seats -- 27-22 -- as compared to a 15-seat majority not long ago. And at least six Democrats hold views that are more centrist. This moderate group, which refers to itself jokingly as "road kill" (because it was constantly being run over by the left and right), now has a voice in the debate as the more liberal Democrats can't afford to irk the moderates for fear of them siding with Republicans.

This has given Hewitt a voice as Democratic leaders are now including him in conversations on key issues facing the state.

Hewitt recently told Associated Press writer Manuel Valdes that he'd never been in Democratic House Speaker Frank Chopp's office before this year.

"Now I've been over there three or four times now," Hewitt said, adding they've even spent time together outside the Capitol.

The dynamic between the top GOP senator and the top Democrat in the House is "dramatically different" from years past, Hewitt said.

But this benefits more than Hewitt and Republicans. It's good for the public.

When both political parties are at the table and a wide variety of views -- the same views held by their constituents back home -- are discussed, it usually results in better public policy.

This might leave those on the far left or far right a bit miffed, but the majority of folks -- those in the vast political center -- will find the decisions more acceptable.


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