I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago. For days, my wife Mary Beth and I walked through the amazing monuments and museums and toured the White House and the Capitol building.
At the National Archives, my nose was mere inches from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. As my eye followed the bold loops and underlines of the Constitution’s familiar signatures, I could not help but reflect on our nation’s founders and think back on their struggles and debate as they strove to define and re-forge their newborn nation.
If they were alive today, I wonder what our founders would think of our bickering national and state political environment. I think they probably would be pretty upset. With this year’s election season in full fury, today’s politics have become snide, angry and polarizing. Sadly, these days both civil discourse and the moderate voices in our political parties are seldom heard.
In 1787, our founders permanently expressed in ink and sheepskin what had slowly formed in their hearts, minds and action during the eleven very challenging years before. This four-page document was the legal blueprint and defining principle of our nation—a radical ethos that started with just three very simple words. It wasn’t ‘We the Republicans’ or ‘We the Democrats.’ It wasn’t ‘We the Tea-Partiers’ or ‘We the PACS’ and especially ‘We the Corporations’ (or their lobbyists). It was ‘We the People’.
Well, next week, ‘We the People’ have an opportunity to boldly affirm our nation’s and our state’s direction. Or, to tweak it, or change it. It all begins with you, and with your vote. But before you start filling in the circles on the ballot, please set aside some quality time and educate yourself on the people running for office and on the state initiatives. The State of Washington Voter’s Pamphlet is no doubt sitting on your dining room table or in your in-box. Read it!
As you peruse the voter’s pamphlet, ask yourself: Who are my candidates? Why are they really running? Is out of a selfless willingness to truly serve the needs of their community or state? Or just another idealogue appointed to carry their party’s banner? Take a few moments to check out the candidates’ Web sites and see what they are for and what they will do—not just what or who they are against.
As our state and district judges are so important in defining our state’s legal system, please also take a good look at the qualifications and backgrounds of the judiciary candidates.
Take some time to explore the pros and cons of each state initiative. Who does it help and why? Ask yourself: what is the motivation in the initiative? Better government? Sound fiscal policy? Or, mere politics? Note the names in the small print, both the folks who wrote the initiative, or who are for or against it. That says a lot.
When the dust settles on November 3, there will be much to do to continue to rebuild our country, our state and the integrity of our political system. Regardless of whose name or preferred party ends up in the win column, I urge our new or renewed representatives to remember that they were sent to Olympia and Washington D.C. to do the people’s business. That can only be done by doing two simple things:
1: Forget the politics of divisiveness. Reach across to the aisle to your political opposites and forge common ground and a common purpose to get things done. True politics is the art of consensus building. Pragmatic compromise does not mean defeat.
2: Do what is right for our nation, our state and our community, and not just for your party of choice.
So, please do yourself and your community a service: when you vote, vote wisely.