Issue October 24, 2006

Election Special: Why Yarmuth?

John Yarmuth
John Yarmuth

LEO won’t make endorsements in this year’s elections beyond one race. We recommend that you vote for John Yarmuth in the 3rd District Congressional race.

This is expected; John Yarmuth started this newspaper in 1990, and although he sold it three years ago, he will always be a friend. We believe in him.

So, let us expound on why we think he’s worthy of your vote.

Quite simply, it comes down to the big picture, how John sees the world. He believes in fairness and openness and independence. He doesn’t assume he’s right every time, and he’s more than willing to listen to opposing points of view. He has a deliberative mind, and he’ll change it if your argument is better. We’ve seen him do it.
When John started LEO in 1990, one of the paper’s basic tenets was the need to listen to opposing views. To this day, LEO believes it’s important to publish opinions that run counter to our admittedly liberal bent. If we’re criticized in the process, that’s healthy.

But this sort of thinking has gotten pushed out of our current political system. Anyone who shows an inclination to cooperate with someone from “the other side” pays a price from his or her “own side.” This creates a system that does not — cannot — work for the common good.

John realizes there’s no perfect world, but that in a fair world, no one gets what they want all the time, but everyone gets what they want some of the time.

How will he be able to act this way? For one thing, John has not accepted money from industry political action committees, because he understands that when people give you something, they expect something. He wants to be free of that pressure and work on issues based on merit.

John is open-minded. What his opponent refers to as his “goofy” ideas typically have arisen from his willingness to look at all sides of an issue and ask, “What if?” He won’t insult your intelligence with sophistry. If there’s a pile of garbage in the room, he’ll admit it stinks — even if his best friend put it there. He won’t pull punches.

John thinks big and knows anything can change with the right amount of collective will. Case in point: energy policy. Clearly this nation has an entrenched dependence on oil. Clearly there are no overnight fixes. But no profound shifts occur overnight. The United States has acted on big ideas in the past — think about the Marshall Plan, or our space program — and we can do it again. It is a matter of will — and those with a vested interest won’t help make changes that dilute their own advantage.

And so, as John points out, it’s time to get cracking on alternatives. We need energy independence, and we need to make it a priority. With the disappearing middle class, would a robust alternative energy program not create a large new class of good jobs? Again, what is the common good?

There are areas where we’ve disagreed with John. Case in point: the bridges issue. We agree he has been wishy-washy and we’ve told him that over the years and recently. Because he is fair-minded, we believe he will act in good faith on this matter if elected — and we’ll continue to express our disagreements if he doesn’t.

Here’s an anecdote that really captures John’s essence. For the first eight years of LEO’s existence, the managing editor was a hardcore Republican. Said staffer left the paper to work for Southeast Christian Church’s weekly newspaper, and soon wrote a column all but disavowing his time at LEO. Did John take retribution? Nope — he (and his business partner at the time, Blanche Kitchen) helped this fellow start another weekly newspaper, both loaning him money to live on while he put the deal together and also investing. Lest you think John lacked will, you should also know that several people who needed to be fired from LEO were shown the door.

In closing, although we have criticized Anne Northup and she’s been hard on our newspaper, there’s this:  We know plenty of people who’ve known her for many years, and uniformly, they praise her as hard-working and driven.

But this race is not about that. It’s about the big picture, about changing a political culture that is not working for the common good. She’s part of it. It is time for a change.