Leader Blues

Friday, January 15, 2010

EDITORIAL >> Snyder’s goodbye

U.S. Rep. Vic Snyder announced Friday that he will not run for re-election, which means that the Second Congressional District will be represented in a radically different way.

It is anybody’s guess whether Snyder’s successor will be a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative, a moderate or a liberal, but we are quite sure that central Arkansas will not again be represented by the most quixotic member of Congress. It was Snyder’s quaint insistence upon principle that we liked more than his votes and that finally became his strength with voters.

Alone among the 535 members of Congress, Snyder did not have a permanent campaign fund. When he first ran for public office, a position in the state Senate from central Little Rock, he would not seek or accept campaign contributions until he actually filed for office, two months before the primaries. He hewed to that ideal in every race thereafter. Every other member of Congress raises money year-round, so that by election year he has a daunting campaign treasury. No principle trumps the imperative of getting re-elected.

Snyder has been an anomaly in so many ways. He was a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam but refused to exploit it. More often than any member of the House, he would cast lonely and politically risky votes. He cast one of the few votes against the invasion of Iraq when the country was being stampeded by war fervor, but he fought relentlessly for better support for soldiers and veterans.

A Snyder campaign was quaint in other ways. He never demonized his opponent or his critics. He was respectful, even complimentary, of even his meanest opponents. His campaigns were, well, just odd.

He would have faced another nasty race this fall. He has a cacophony of critics for his votes to expand health insurance to everyone and for a bill to reduce climate-warming gases.

There were rumors that Snyder would quit or at least not seek re-election after the birth of triplets last year and the frail recovery of his wife, Rev. Betsy Singleton. He spent every weekend and every day that Congress was not in session back at home with his family. Friday, he said could not cheat his family any longer.

The Second District is not apt to elect anyone like him, but we can hope that he or she will be at least a reasonable facsimile.

Ernie Dumas writes editorials for The Leader.