HIGHLINE COLLEGE |Fri, Apr 3, 2020

Purity tests don't help progress

Jack Fishkin

Once upon a time in the Washington state House of Representatives, D-30th District State Rep. Kristine Reeves was called a "white supremacist" by some of her fellow Democrats.

She received this rather strange criticism after disagreeing on certain policy decisions and thereby failing what is sometimes called the purity test, which determines whether one's beliefs align entirely with their chosen political party.

This is despite the fact that Kristine Reeves is not only an African American woman, but also the first African American woman elected to the state House in 18 years.

Reeves visited a state and local government class here at Highline earlier this week, where she discussed what she does in the state House and shared a little about her road to getting there.

Growing up, her mother was addicted to drugs, which led to Reeves spending 10 years of her life in foster care. She was forced to rely on social services and government subsidies such as food stamps.

These experiences shaped her outlook. They have informed her belief system and subsequent decision-making now that she has reached the House.

For example, she believes in supporting lower-income families with financial aid programs, along with the rights of the middle-class people who make up the majority of tax-payers covering these programs. But she also believes in tax breaks for higher-income people as incentives for business growth, which could perhaps be attributed, at least in part, to her career as an economic developer.

But the latter principle does not pass the Democrat purity test. Pushing for tax breaks is traditionally a Republican effort.

This, along with some of her other slightly right-leaning beliefs, such as her support of the 2nd amendment with significant regulation, earns her some negative criticism among other Democrats.

Consider your own beliefs. Do you pass the purity test for any one political party?

I'd venture to guess that the answer is no.

Most people have relatively nuanced beliefs and principles, and one can only hope that we can all still respect people who might have their own opinions that oppose ours. Likewise, the practice of effective governance is also nuanced, and calls for collaboration between people with diverse worldviews from different walks of life.

But this mutual respect is simply not always found within our government. Democrats in particular are known for "eating their own," according to Reeves.

But she's no pushover, and she seems dedicated to continuing to pursue the issues that matter to her, despite what people around her in either party may think or say.

As I've expressed in this column before, compromise is key in making policy. Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between must collaborate if they ever want to escape this echo chamber mentality and shift their focus to helping us, the people they represent.

Not just the people they want to represent.


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