Making Politics Great Again

It is over!  You are reading this after the election...now we can exhale. Some of us will be happy. Some will still be upset. Some may be in fact stunned.  All of us can go back to posting pictures of food and pets and vacations!

However I am writing this before the election. Today our country is in the throes of partisan rancor, anxiety and the kind of craziness that only happens at the end of a presidential race. I have an upset stomach and I don’t think it is only because I raided my kids’ Halloween candy.  I am fighting with friends on Facebook.

 

 

It is over!  You are reading this after the election...now we can exhale. Some of us will be happy. Some will still be upset. Some may be in fact stunned.  All of us can go back to posting pictures of food and pets and vacations!

However I am writing this before the election. Today our country is in the throes of partisan rancor, anxiety and the kind of craziness that only happens at the end of a presidential race. I have an upset stomach and I don’t think it is only because I raided my kids’ Halloween candy.  I am fighting with friends on Facebook.

Here is the thing: no matter who won the race, America lost something very valuable in this presidential election.  We lost our way.  We lost our moral compass.  We forgot that elections are supposed to be about big ideas and peaceful transitions.  We crossed a lot of BIG red lines.

The biggest loser in this election is civil discourse.  Truth is now a word associated with Alex Jones and conspiracy theorists on the right. Freedom is a word used to deny civil rights more often as it is used to protect them.  Justice is used to describe vigilante action and disregard for due process.  Patriotism is used to threaten and intimidate fellow Americans who dare think differently.

How do we fix this? How do we make politics great again? We need to start with a few basic rules for civil engagement – for all of us, Democrats, Republicans, Conservatives and Independents alike.

Listen to people who don’t think like you. Really listen to them. Read what they read, re-check your own assumptions.  Respect differences in opinion.  You may or may not change your mind, but the process will be good for you either way.

Check your sources.  Both sides have web sites that post “news” that is really opinion and conjecture.  Double check before you post/share. In fact, go to the other side’s sources and see what they are saying about it before you post/share.  Facts matter.

Debate fairly. My husband and I are registered in different parties, and have spent years respectfully challenging each other’s assumptions.  I am not going to pretend we have never gone to the mat (figuratively) over an issue, but we try to come prepared with facts.

Show compassion. Our politics are formed by all our experiences, especially negative experiences that can make someone irrational.  Take time to understand where someone is coming from before you judge them.

Play fairly. Stop pulling down the other guy’s lawn signs, and stop with the intimidation and name calling. If you don’t like the other guy, then just work harder for your guy to win.

Speak up. Don’t be afraid to respectfully challenge someone if they say something ignorant or wrong. We can’t tolerate misinformation any more than we can tolerate hate.  If you see something, say something…just be tactful.

Remember, it isn’t only about you. You are one person among many in a given district, state or country.  Even the most awesome candidate is not always going to do exactly what YOU want. They have to represent all the people.

Help others in need. Get out of your own head, do something to actually help someone in need. Volunteer and connect to other lives. Be grateful for what you have and share what you can give.

Here’s an idea - run for office!  If you don’t like how things are going, step up and get involved in making it better.  It is easy to fire off opinions on social media or yell at your TV, but actually put yourself on the line and be part of the solution.  Even if you don’t win, you can work to make things better.

To that end, I want to take a moment to thank each and every candidate whose name is on our ballot.  To run for office requires sacrifice and conviction to serve a purpose greater than your own. I would say that about anyone – even those who could never earn my vote – because it takes a lot to make a run.

Special appreciation goes out to Brian Higbie, candidate for State Assembly, who is a first time candidate and is running in a heavily Republican district.  Brian is such a thoughtful guy who has not taken any vote for granted, and hasn’t been afraid to talk to anyone about his candidacy.

Brian is almost the anti-candidate of this election cycle – genuine, respectful, motivated to do good, and willing to fight uphill for the good of the people. No matter the results, we are all better because someone like Brian stepped up and stepped into the arena.

Let’s make politics great again by improving our civil engagement, remembering that we are doing this for the greater good.  Let’s show our children that we are better than we were this election cycle.  As Lincoln said, “we are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

 

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.