Pennsylvania will lose two good public servants next year. They deserve words of praise.
State Rep. John Taylor of Philadelphia and U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of Allentown have both announced they will not stand for re-election in 2018. Taylor will retire after 34 years in the state House. Dent is leaving Congress after 14 years.
Both men are Republican loyalists. Both are what could be called moderates who tilt toward conservative. Because of that, they are out of step with many in their party. In the Republican establishment, both in Harrisburg and Washington, moderation is a vice and conservatism is considered phony unless it includes a slash-and-burn approach not only on social issues, but to government itself.
Taylor and Dent have refused to be pressured into adopting this brand of politics. They are reminiscent of legislators in earlier days, deeply partisan, but also aware of their duty to govern responsibly, even if it takes compromise – a horrible word in the radical conservative lexicon.
In the House Republican caucus, Taylor was for many years the only Republican legislator from Philadelphia. That status could have made him ineffective, but it did not. He talked to and dealt with Democrats. He advanced the city’s agenda when he agreed with it. He was crucial in keeping Philadelphia on the minds of his Republican colleagues, winning state money for the Port of Philadelphia and SEPTA.
The fact that he was pro-union – another rarity among Republicans – helped. The fact that he had a good disposition and a practical turn of mind helped, too. He realized that he was elected to serve a larger purpose than advancing his own interests. He was there to serve the interests of his constituents in Northeast Philadelphia’s 177th District and the residents of his hometown.
Taylor is little known outside of political circles, and that is deliberate. He was a workhorse, not a show horse in the halls of the legislature, more interested in results than public praise.
It wasn’t easy being the odd man out. As Taylor himself put it, he was ridiculed as a right-wing nut in deep blue and very liberal Philadelphia, and ridiculed as a socialist in the GOP caucus in Harrisburg.
Dent was a much more visible leader. He is head of the Tuesday Group, a collection of 50 or so moderate but conservative members of Congress. He drew the wrath of President Trump and Republican leaders in the House by opposing the various Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare.
Dent calls himself a member of the “governing wing” of his party – a believer in compromise (that dirty word again) to accomplish goals. He had already drawn opposition to re-election from a pro-Trump state representative who has called Dent “the number-one turncoat” in his party.
Dent angered radical Republicans not only for disagreeing with party positions, but by being vocal about it. Most other moderate Republicans didn’t have the gumption to speak out, but as Dent put it, “Silence is consent.”
We regret that Taylor and Dent are retiring, but we can’t blame them. They are escaping a party so sick it hates what they stand for.