By Kevin Robinson in News on Nov 16, 2007 2:50PM
What happens when the party you believe in, that you dedicate your political career to, takes a turn for the worse? If you're Dennis Hastert, you resign graciously, take your kudos, and become the elder statesman you always knew you could be. Hastert resigned yesterday, bringing to a close an era of congressional Republicanism marked by increasingly bitter partisanship, an unpopular president championing an unpopular war, and a rash of scandals, both political and personal that wracked a party who represented so-called traditional values in these modern times.
Elected in 1986, Hastert represented Illinois's 14th Congressional District with the grace and form befitting a former high school wrestling coach who led his team to a state title in 1976. Sometimes referred to as the "accidental speaker", he was elected Speaker in 1999, and held that position until the GOP lost the majority in Congress last year.
There is no need to rehash the controversies surrounding his tenure; every pol has them, and Hastert was no different. Chicagoist prefers to remember J Dennis Hastert as the prairie Republican he strove to be - bemoaning intrusive government and working to bring civility, fairness and open-minded solutions to a political process that is often marred my mean-spiritedness and backstabbing. In his farewell speech, Hastert reached out to both sides of the aisle, imploring his colleagues to stand for their beliefs, but to be fair and open minded. As he walks off into retirement, and the next stage of his life, he won't be in Congress to advocate that position. In his wake he leaves behind a heated race to replace him, with Republicans jockeying for a previously unfathomable congressional seat, and Democrats expecting to be competitive. Here's hoping that civility reigns in the 14th.