CATEGORY: EDT Editorials
Editorial, Thursday, Nov. 5, 1998
America's voters Tuesday asserted their pragmatism and centrism in an election that defied pundits' predictions.
Democrats gained seats in the U.S House, turning back a wave of predictions that the party would be big losers in the wake of scandal surrounding President Clinton. Voters polled on election day, in fact, affirmed the time honored maxim that "all politics is local," telling questioners by a wide margin that President Clinton played no part in their decision. Those who said Clinton mattered actually voted by a narrow margin "against" the president, giving congressional Democrats little factual comfort on that issue.
Voters in four conservative states - Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina - rattled the widely held assumption that Republicans have gained a vise hold on big offices in most of the South. Southerners, in most cases, also continued historic commitments to congressional incumbency and seniority regardless of party.
Constitutional propositions became hotly debated in many states, including Mississippi. Two amendments passed by overwhelming margins in our state. One requires in-state residency by people gathering petition signatures in the initiative and referendum process. Its approval resoundingly affirms Mississippians' determination to control their electoral destiny against paid-for-service special interests from outside the state. Another amendment broadens and guarantees crime victims' rights, a painful situation for many citizens.
Was the election nationwide a mandate about President Clinton's problems? No. It was, however, in some cases a repudiation of candidates who sought to make Clinton the key local/state/district issue rather than tangible congressional programs like health care, Social Security, national defense, economic strength, and public infrastructure.
The proper forum to deal with alleged impeachable offenses by Clinton is in Congress, the only court empowered to try and convict and remove from office a president. Those who took the issue to the court of public opinion in many cases encountered indifference or hostility - and a preference for debate about what Congress year in and year out does for ordinary citizens.
Congressional leaders, especially Republicans, must not be cowed from pursuing the impeachment process because of election results. Any backing off would confirm cynical suspicions that the entire process is politically motivated. The allegations warrant moving ahead in the pursuit of justice given exclusively to the Congress in determining the commission of high crimes and misdemeanors.
American politics mystifies many who watch from other countries and those who live in isolation from door-to-door concerns. Voters' behavior, however, surprises only those who try to build boxes around it and confine the electorate with artificial constructs about what must be important to local voters in Mississippi or any other state.
Bold moves linked to visionary plans shape a bright a future for communities like Tupelo.
Tupelo's City Council acted boldly and with vision Tuesday night with a $22.7 million bond commitment to renewing the old fairgrounds. A major developer is expected to enter a partnership agreement with the city to generate an additional $44 million from the private sector.
Lay civic leadership powered the fairgrounds planning process through more than a year of meetings, discussions, negotiations and weighing of options. The plan adopted Tuesday night by a convincing 7-1 vote would use sales tax revenues to service the bond debt and require some spending from reserve funds. The bond issue won't require a tax increase.
The 50-acre fairgrounds will expand the existing downtown district, complement the Tupelo Coliseum and push significant new development toward east Tupelo. Proposals include a new convention center in the old J.C. Penney building on the coliseum property, a new municipal building, a museum to house broadcast executive Frank Spain's world-class vintage auto collection, an entertainment district, retail stores, residences and hotels.
The fairgrounds, which sits geographically in Tupelo's heart, could become a magnetizing new city center that builds on downtown's successes and moves dramatically into a new millennium.
The development won't appear with the wave of a magic wand. It will require hard work, marketing skills, latitude for creative architecture, and the kind of entrepreneurial risk taking that has made many Tupeloans prosper.
In 10 years, citizens should be able to look back on Tuesday night's vote and see it as one of the bright and shining moments in Tupelo's innovative and progressive history.