Editorial: Mark Kirk and the lofty goal of bipartisan moderation
In the interest of full disclosure, we endorsed Mark Kirk for re-election to the U.S. Senate. It's not that we disliked eventual winner Tammy Duckworth, but as we said in the endorsement editorial, Mark Kirk's moderate Republicanism is more in line with how we think -- fiscally conservative and socially moderate.
We bring that up today because of an exit interview of sorts he gave to Daily Herald reporter Kerry Lester, published Monday.
By talking about his 16 years in office as a congressman and then senator, Kirk, of Highland Park, gives what amounts to sound advice not only to Duckworth, the Democrat from Hoffman Estates, as she takes over next month but to Congress as a whole and to President-elect Donald Trump.
"I had hoped to create middle ground based on social moderation and spending moderation, which is increasingly necessary for the future of our country," Kirk said. "I always sought to be a problem solver, thinking about not being with the extreme right and extreme left."
That's what we send people to Washington to do -- help solve the country's problems and not get caught up so much in the noise from the fringes. Unfortunately, politics in Washington is very noisy these days and has been for some time. And that's partly why people of Kirk's ilk weren't too successful this go round.
"So often people surrender their opinions to party leaders. We need to have someone who will just call it the way they see it," Kirk said.
Most politicians can't do that all the time and Kirk didn't always either. But he did take some difficult positions and is proud of them. When asked, he said supporting marriage equality and the employment nondiscrimination act are two positions he's most proud of. He also added his work to open the Lovell VA hospital in North Chicago.
As he moves on from the Capitol, Kirk hopes to make his mark on helping to improve the lives of stroke victims, using his own experience as motivation. It's an important role, as he worked hard to prove he could handle his Senate duties despite the difficult challenges he faced. Not everyone was convinced he was up to the task, but he insists he was.
Looking back, he said, "I hope I'm remembered as a careful, incremental legislator, a bipartisan lawmaker. Someone who was in the end not judged by the heat of his rhetoric but by the effectiveness of his actions."
Politics being what they are, not everyone will judge Sen. Kirk that way, but we agree that's a lofty goal that every public servant should aspire to.
Good luck in the future, Senator.