DOUG ROSS: A Democrat who sounds almost Republican

2013-03-29T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: A Democrat who sounds almost RepublicanBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

It makes sense that Lake County Democratic Party Chairman Thomas McDermott Jr., of all people, would be a strident liberal, eagerly embracing the party line on every issue. After all, Lake County is one of the most heavily Democratic counties in Indiana.

And the uncivil war between the Democrats and Republicans makes it sound as if the two sides are worlds apart.

But in some ways McDermott sounds almost Republican. I couldn't help thinking about that when we talked on Tuesday. McDermott noticed it, too.

When we recorded this week's nwi.com Political Roundtable, I asked McDermott about school vouchers, after the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the far-reaching law.

Everyone knows Democrats hate school vouchers because of their effect on traditional public schools.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, one of the Democratic stars of last year's election, was propelled to office in part because of her stance against vouchers. She was originally involved in that court fight but withdrew because winning the election meant swearing to uphold all Indiana laws.

So it was surprising to hear Lake County's top Democrat say this week, "I happen to be a fan of the vouchers." McDermott's reasoning makes sense, though.

McDermott is mayor of Hammond, a city fighting to stabilize and regrow its population. And schools, as we all know, are a primary consideration in determining where we want to live. Parents want a good education for their children.

Vouchers make private schools affordable for more parents, so they allow parents more choices in where to send their children to school — especially in Hammond, which has some good private schools.

The College Bound program McDermott started is aimed at convincing parents to live in Hammond. McDermott hopes to wean that program off casino revenue and fund it with water revenues, to make the program more stable.

But what good is College Bound if the students aren't well prepared for college when they graduate from high school? So McDermott's stance on vouchers makes sense.

"I know that doesn't sound very Democratic, because most of the people in my party don't support the voucher system, but I'm mayor, and mayors have to deal with real-life issues," McDermott said. "And I can tell you that in Hammond and in Northwest Indiana, the urban communities are losing population. And we've got to stop that bleeding, or else we're in trouble."

It's good to hear a politician display pragmatism and not just ideology. It would be good to see that in the nation's capital as well.

I can dream, can't I?

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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