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No, They're Not Always Right : The unctuous blather of local Republican leaders notwithstanding, it's not immoral to agree with or even be a Democrat.

June 08, 1997|WYLIE A. AITKEN | Wylie A. Aitken is an attorney in Santa Ana

Former Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown enjoyed saying he located the then-newest University of California campus in Orange County because its voters, who mostly voted against him, obviously needed more education.

Based on comments reported in a Times article on April 25 of a prominent Republican about Democrats, their attitudes about business, and the implication that our county is one where only one political philosophy has credence, it would appear that the need for education--and perhaps a large dose of tolerance--is still evident.

First, his claim that Orange County is a "Republican county" (presumably because of registration or a head count of elected officials) is as misguided as saying the United States is a "Democratic country" because the current president is a Democrat.

More worrisome than the bravado of such statements is the accompanying attitude that because one registers to vote as a Democrat, one is automatically disqualified from consideration for leadership of the Orange County Business Council, the county's preeminent economic development organization.

Stan Oftelie is the latest victim of a sad but potentially dangerous trend of personal assaults on people based on political registration. One barely had time to react to such nonsense when two more examples quickly hit the newspapers. The well-respected mayor of Anaheim, Tom Daly, was criticized for assisting U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez because she is a Democrat. A mentality has developed that partisanship is king and you cheer for failure!

This was quickly followed by Chapman University students voting not to have Sanchez, one of the most famous alumna and a Head Start kid who was raised by hard-working immigrant parents, as a commencement speaker because of her "politics" (code word for Democrat).

Mark Baldassare caught a bitter broadside from the county's Republican Party chairman for accurately reporting scientifically based poll results unfavorable to Bob Dole last fall. (Election results validated Baldassare's numbers.) As the county spiraled into bankruptcy, former Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert L. Citron's incompetence and hubris was ignored. Instead, his party registration was cited as the chief rationale for his spectacular blunders (with no acknowledgment that county supervisors were unanimous members of the Other Party).

All of us should be concerned when otherwise well-qualified and competent individuals are subject to a philosophy screening from self-appointed guardians of the county's image. Talk about political correctness! These guardians continue to prove the old adage, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." How else does one explain the mess the other party finds itself in with the Rhonda Carmony and Scott Baugh trials, where the Republican leadership apparently believed it is OK to be a Democratic candidate as long as you are a "stealth" Democrat?

Heard in conjunction with Oftelie's appointment was the tired bromide, "Democrats are anti-business," comparable in credibility with such statements as "women belong in the kitchen" and "What's good for General Motors is good for the USA."

A dispassionate look at Orange County's modern history unquestionably shows that responsible business leaders of every philosophy have cooperated on the issues and projects that were and are critical to our community. Just a few examples:

The Orange County Performing Arts Center: Henry Segerstrom, a Republican, who wisely and rightly never has engaged in political bashing, led an array of business leaders who never asked if a potential donor's contribution was "Democratic" or "Republican."

Measure M: Yes, it was a tax. Republicans and Democrats agreed that the county's economic health would benefit more from unclogged roads and freeways than a rigid attitude on taxes that would leave us ideologically pure while jobs bled away and our economy unraveled. And at the ballot box, voters from all parties agreed.

Disneyland expansion: The expansion, which will create thousands of new jobs and a boost for our economy, was led by Democrats Daly, former Anaheim Councilman Irv Pickler and the Republican colleagues of the Anaheim City Council.

I am proud to chair the Democratic Foundation of Orange County, whose members (more than 100) include bottom-line-oriented business people representing a spectrum of businesses from small service companies to those on the Fortune 500. They believe, as I do, that a strong economy is a key foundation of our society and that Orange County is a place where hard work, initiative and the entrepreneurial spirit is rewarded for everyone--Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green or Independent.

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