Amid the sound bites that are today's vacuous, doctrinaire national politics stands history's Belleville native and former U.S. senator Alan Dixon. He's 86 now and recently spoke to the Belleville Chamber of Commerce. Dixon's career represented several of the noble traits of statesmanship missing in politics. He was ferocious, non-partisan and principled.
Ferocious is a strong adjective but that was Dixon. No less an authority than former senator Sam Nunn's chief legislative aid told me Dixon was "a bulldog -- once he grabbed hold of an issue that he cared about, he never let go." As counterpoint, consider today's media-friendly on-camera interview recipe: (a) corral a reporter with a camera; (b) recite some staff-prepped, catchy, empty-headed dogma; and (c) move on. Dixon spoke for himself and he persevered behind the scenes and without the camera.
Non-partisan is a vanishing D.C. politician today; but Dixon's mantra was Democrat and fiscal conservative. Wanna find that middle-of-the-road and compromise-amenable combination in today's Senate? Good luck.
Principled? Name one in today's party-line, lock-step Congress. Dixon, a Democrat, voted to confirm now Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. It ended his U.S. Senate career as perhaps he knew it might; but you won't find him directing responsibility elsewhere then or now. "I believed the man" was his explanation, and let the chips fall where they may.
We Bellevillians, indeed we Americans, are not likely to soon see a statesman like Dixon.