Former Congressman James R. Jones decries partisan stalemate
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Saturday, October 06, 2012
10/06/12 at 6:18 AM
Former 1st District Congressman James R. Jones says the only way to solve the partisan standoff in Washington is at the ballot box.
"Will it change? To me, that's not a function of Congress," Jones said Friday. "It's a function of the voters. When the voters say, 'I've had enough of this partisan bickering and this stalemate and I want to elect people to Congress who are going to reach across the aisle and get something done,' that's when it'll all change."
A Democrat who represented the 1st District for six terms from 1972 to 1984, Jones left Congress after an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid. He previously worked for 2nd District Congressman Ed Edmondson and in the Johnson White House, and since 1984 he has been chairman of the American Stock Exchange, served as ambassador to Mexico and worked as a lawyer and in economic development.
Jones is now a partner in Washington, D.C., with Manatt Jones Global Strategies, which helps U.S. companies develop business in Latin America.
Jones was in Tulsa this week to host a fundraiser and record campaign ads for Democratic 1st District candidate John Olson.
Now 73, Jones was only 25 when he became President Lyndon Johnson's appointments secretary and 33 when he was first elected to Congress by winning what had been a safe Republican seat.
He remains the only Democrat since 1948 to represent the 1st District.
The district's demographics don't suggest that's likely to change any time soon, but Jones hopes that a return of what he called "centrist conservatives" will revive his party.
"Nationally, the broad middle of the political spectrum, Democrats and Republicans, have opted out of the process," he said. "They've left it up to the extremes in both parties to kind of be the dominant force in elections."
For many years, the standard explanation for the decline of the Democratic Party in Oklahoma has been that the party changed but the voters didn't. Jones, though, said the Republican Party has changed, too.
"The Republican Party in the district when I was here, until the latter part of my time, was basically a business, conservative Republican Party," he said. "That's changed considerably over the years. It's controlled by the tea partiers (and) the religious right.
"The Democrats, in a lot of respects, have not wanted to challenge this the way they should."
Original Print Headline: Former congressman decries partisan stalemate
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Former 1st District U.S. Rep. James R. Jones speaks Friday about politics at the Philcade Building downtown. CHRISTOPHER SMITH/ Tulsa World