McClintock must find ways to say yes

By: Editorial Board
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It’s official: Tom McClintock will be the 4th Congressional District congressman for 2009 and 2010. In a race featuring barbs over “carpetbagging” and patriotism that went into extra innings involving recounts in nine counties, McClintock edged Democrat Charlie Brown by 1,800 votes – less than one-half of 1 percent of the 370,000 votes cast. That’s a far cry from the 20-, 30- and 50-percent margins that retiring Congressman John Doolittle enjoyed in his 18-year run, and McClintock should take note. District voters are seeking solutions from the federal government, not an obstructionist who relishes life on a virtuous island of righteous doctrine. For their parts, McClintock and Brown were gracious in victory and defeat, respectively, a sign that even in a knockdown, nasty fight both men can still stand proud after the final bell. But that doesn’t mean McClintock should expect his foe, or the 183,000 people who voted for Brown, to fall in lock step with the new Congressman’s call for “traditional American principles of individual freedom and limited government,” as McClintock declared in his victory speech. When the world economy is teetering on the brink of collapse and terrorism threatens nuclear-capable countries, America needs every one of its 535 Congressional representatives focused on solving pressing national and global issues. For McClintock, that will mean saying “yes” a lot more than he was used to in California politics. Yes, as in: Yes to transportation funding and leveraging public works funding to spur economic growth. As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has touted, California has billions of dollars of needed projects that could use a federal boost. McClintock has been adamantly opposed to federal government stimulus plans and federal spending on state projects. Yes to flood control and water supply issues in the 4th District that don’t include the Auburn Dam. Yes, these projects should live on their merits, as McClintock states, but they likely will require a combination of state and federal funds. McClintock should be ready to embrace the right ones. Yes to pragmatism in Iraq and foreign policy that encourages collaboration, not isolationism, in dealing with myriad forces that threaten liberty and human rights in all nations. Yes to serving the 4th District first and respecting the diversity of opinions that reside here. Yes to a permanent home in the district. Yes to frequent visits and open, public forums encouraging participation from all voices. Yes to listening to thoughts other than his own. When Doolittle emerged from his closest election two years ago, he announced he was “charting a new course” to improve relations with district constituents. While an ongoing federal investigation proved too large for his plan – or his political career – to survive, it was a then-noble attempt to reach out to an electorate that didn’t provide him with a solid mandate to represent. If there’s anything that Doolittle could leave McClintock, it would be that 10-step program to help the new congressman build relationships to voters who barely know him. Of these, establishing district advisory committees on key issues would be a great start, pulling together his own team of rivals to expand thinking and problem-solving. When Americans voted for Barack Obama and his slogan of “Yes We Can,” the word “yes” came first. If McClintock is as smart as he believes he is, he will need to find ways to say the word while holding true to his values. It may be his greatest challenge.