My, how the stripes change after a close race | SierraSun.com

My, how the stripes change after a close race

David Bunker

I would never call John Doolittle a political chameleon, but sitting down with the congressman last week was a much different experience than the first time I met him about three years ago.

Maybe it’s the Democratic-controlled Congress, the tightest election in his nine terms in Washington, or a more moderate face for a more moderate spot in his district ” but Doolittle sounded almost progressive on his latest visit to Truckee last week.

Compare that with my first encounter with him ” think Republican-controlled D.C., Doolittle in a high party leadership position and no Abramoff scandal. Then, Doolittle railed against environmental whackos and trotted out many of the conservative catch phrases that have so defined the Republican party over the last decade.

Last week, Doolittle chatted about Hydrogen-fueled cars, talked up biomass energy generation and said he’d back the preservation of a chunk of land at Homewood Mountain Ski Resort.

For a second I thought I was talking with Sen. Feinstein.

Even when discussing U.S. House of Representative Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congress’s Democratic leadership, Doolittle sounded anything but combative.

Pelosi “has an opportunity to make a name for herself” he said, while offering mild critiques of the Democrat’s work so far.

It made me think of the schizophrenic nature of politics, where the political stripes of a politician can change from term to term, depending on the party in power and the latest polls.

I wouldn’t say Doolittle has changed his political stripes, by any means. He has a consistent, conservative voting record since the early 1990s.

But, it seems, Doolittle is finding that the political landscape of his district has changed underneath his feet during his time in Congress.

The lumber towns of Plumas, Lassen and Sierra counties are now either withering, or adapting by branching into new construction, tourism, and possibly, even tech economies in the future.

The strident conservative mantras no longer resonate within the district as they once did.

That’s not to say Doolittle’s district is no longer conservative. It’s just not the same locked-up Republican territory it once was ” as shown by the last election.

Match that with the national political climate of the last election and even a political ideologue can see that now might be a good time for a more moderate, perhaps even conciliatory, tone.

It showed that votes “-even votes on the losing side ” can have a profound impact.

I just hope his promised town hall meetings, the satellite offices he’s announced for the district and the new willingness to be back in the district as often as possible last through the next election ” and that goes for whoever becomes the representative.

David Bunker is the Sierra Sun’s assistant editor in Tahoe City. Reach him at dbunker@sierrasun.com.