Stay in the Senate, John McCain

The idea that John McCain might not run next year for another term as a U.S. senator leaves me with decidedly mixed feelings.

The Arizona Republican is one of the few GOP wise men left in that august body. My sense is that the Senate needs him to slap some sense into the upstarts who have taken over much of the agenda on Capitol Hill.

He says the government shutdown was a huge mistake, although he sounds as though he means it as a partisan strategy. No kidding, senator. He doesn’t think much of at least one of the tea party firebrands in the Senate, fellow Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, whom he’s dressed down already for questioning the ethics and integrity of another Republican, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

My concern isn’t about the future of the Republican Party. I am rather concerned about whether government can keep working the way it’s supposed to work. Whether the GOP is heading down some sort of path of self-destruction really doesn’t matter to me, although I would prefer to see a healthy — and reasonable — Republican Party perform its role in crafting meaningful legislation.

If John McCain is able to try to talk some sense into his party and continue working with colleagues who call themselves Democrats, then he ought to stay.

Yes, he ticks off many on the far right who consider him one of those dreaded RINOs — Republican In Name Only. He’s no such thing. His voting record is solidly conservative and has consistent with historic GOP values for many years.

He just happens to be willing and able to talk sense to those who need to hear it.

Pay attention.

Voted early, still prefer Election Day

Well, I did it. I voted early for the first time in memory.

We had to go the Randall County Courthouse Annex early because my wife and I will be unable to vote next Tuesday.

I’ll admit to a couple of things. One is that I didn’t vote on every one of the nine state constitutional amendment proposals or on every one of Amarillo’s 21 amendment to its municipal charter. I didn’t know enough about them to cast an intelligent vote, so I left those spots blank.

I also did support the multimillion-dollar Amarillo Recreational Center complex. I’ve concluded that Amarillo needs a first-class rec center to attract out-of-town business and to retain those activities here that otherwise might go to other communities. I like the fact that a citizens committee is beating the bushes to raise an estimated $6 million in an effort to keep our property tax bite a bit lower. That’s good stewardship of our public money.

The other thing I’ll admit to is that I still prefer voting on Election Day.

There remains a certain sort of pageantry associated with voting. I like the notion of standing in line, kibitzing with fellow voters. I like the anticipation of waiting for a voting booth to open so I can perform my civic duty.

I keep thinking of the enormous lines I saw in South Africa in 1994 when black citizens there were voting for the first time in their lives. They waited for many, many hours in lines that stretched as far as anyone could see. They chose Nelson Mandela to lead their country as their first black president.

That’s too much, of course, to ask in a country such as ours that takes voting for granted.

Waiting in some semblance of a line on Election Day, however, remains my preference in performing this basic rite of citizenship.

If you haven’t voted already, be sure to vote next Tuesday.