Our Opinion: Intimidating partisans from breaking ranks

With the sound of the gavel still echoing the opening of the legislative session Wednesday, “politics as usual” reared its ugly head.

Partisanship is part and parcel of a two-party system, but it becomes particularly distasteful when it takes the form of enticement or vendetta.

At issue is a plan among a group of Senate Republicans to block the gubernatorial appointment of a former representative who failed to support a GOP tax cut plan.

State Rep. Dennis Fowler, R-Advance, was among 15 House Republicans who sided with Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon by voting to sustain his veto during the September veto session.

Nixon subsequently appointed Fowler to the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole. Fowler vacated his legislative seat to begin serving on the board, but his continued service requires Senate confirmation.

Sen. Brad Lager sees the appointment as “a political payoff” for Fowler’s vote to sustain the veto. “I don’t want to say that he’s getting bought off, but that’s sure what it looks like,” Lager, R-Savannah, told The Associated Press. “I just don’t think there’s a place for that, and I intend on stopping it.”

Nixon called the payoff allegation “blatantly false,” and said Fowler “has a 38-year career in law enforcement and, like others, I think he’s highly qualified, highly capable of serving on that board.”

Some Republicans, however, perceive the governor dangled a carrot, and they intend to counter with a stick.

“We can’t be allowing our own members to be cherry picked off and destroy our supermajority in this manner,” said Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph. “This is just us policing our own.”

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, added: “Republicans need to act like Republicans, and I’m tired of rewarding Republicans who don’t act like Republicans.”

Blocking the appointment sends a blatant partisan message: Break party ranks and suffer consequences.

Some observers will contend politics is rough and tumble, and it’s naive to expect otherwise.

Perhaps, but we continue to be put off by political pettiness, intimidation and vendettas.

Any elected official may face issues where individual conscience, and/or the collective conscience of their constituents, compels them to break partisan ranks.

Such a departure often requires courage — a trait that deserves plaudits rather than punishment.

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