OK, I wasn’t a political science major in college, nor did I do particularly well in my social studies classes in high school – but I have learned a thing or two in the past few decades. Especially in the area of teamwork and cooperation. And if you knew me “back in the day,” you know that is saying a lot.
I learned many lessons when I first started sitting on various committees, advisory boards, and government regulatory boards. I remember going in to those meetings and standing my ground for certain policies and procedures. Sometimes I effectively made my points and the rest of the committee agreed. Other times, I was unable to convince the others that I had a valid point and they shot down my ideas. This is where I learned the most.
Leaving the meeting, I would talk to others about how terrible it was that the board voted something other than what I wanted. I would grumble, gripe, and complain. One day those words got back to a powerful member of one of the groups – and that person came to talk with me. They explained that as a group, we worked together. Before the vote, all ideas are valid, but after the vote, we all leave the room unified by the group’s decision.
I really had to think about this for awhile. It didn’t make sense to me. How could I maintain my independence, freedom of speech, and ideals, if I had to surrender my opinions to the power of the group. After some thought, I came to agree with my mentor’s teaching. I realized that if the board/committee/group/taskforce didn’t speak with unity, all of our decisions and policies would begin to lose momentum and eventually the group would lose credibility. This level of fragmentation, while powerfully good on a micro-scale, ultimately will destroy the group on a macro-level.
The same is true for local, regional, state, and national governments. While there is some value in arguing a particular issue (eg; healthcare, taxes, abortion laws, etc), ultimately, we, as citizens, must coalesce around a unified decision. We cannot continue to argue points long after they have been decided. Not only does this fragment the credibility of our nation, but it prevents us from moving forward into the future. It literally ties us to our past.
We, as Americans, have created a government for the people, and by the people. We cannot point our fingers at “the Government” and blame “them” for our troubles. For the government is us. We, the people, are the government. The fingers we are pointing, are directed towards the people we elected, the administrators we hire (via those elected leaders), and ourselves – the final hiring authority.
So, ultimately, it works like this: We decide to have an election and various people are nominated and campaign. Each candidate, and their election committees, promote themselves as the best person for that position. Some are fiscal conservatives, others are social liberals, and some are moderates, and still some are on a course that is difficult to label.
We, the people, listen to their speeches, read their campaign material, and discuss the merits of who we believe would be the best person for the job. In the end, on election day, someone is selected to fill the particular position (eg; mayor, county commissioner, library board member, senator, governor, etc). This is the person, that WE, the people, have selected.
Now this is where my experience as an appointed committee member is applicable. Before the election is the time to advocate our ideas, our candidate, and our values. After the election, is when we come together in unity – no matter who won. The decision has been made, and as a democracy, we have agreed to let the will of the people reign.
If you’re not happy that your candidate, or party, didn’t win – then you need to look in the mirror and ask why? Don’t be a sore loser. Jump on board, for the common good, and support the forward progress of our country. This is what democracy is all about.
Can you imagine what would have happened if during that first Continental Congress, if the representatives, from the colonies, who didn’t agree with the direction of the Declaration of Independence, and later the Constitution, had continued to argue, debate, and complain? Most likely we wouldn’t have had 13 states – and later we would most likely not have had a united 50 states. Instead, this area would be fragmented like Europe and the Middle East.
If you’re not happy with the numbers of people who vote, then work to fix that. It does little or no good to complain that a certain leader was elected with only 30% of the total population’s vote. That 30% represents the majority of voters, who happened to vote – and those who didn’t vote have basically handed over their vote, in proxy, to those who are able to win a majority.
“Our inability to address long-term challenges makes a strong case that the United States now faces an era of historical decline. To change this story-line, we need to stop blaming the rascals we elect to office, and look instead to ourselves.” Down With the People, Newsweek, Jacob Weisberg, Published Feb 5, 2010
This is how our system works. Be a team player. Let’s work in unity, to make sure things happen. Let’s not continue to block good – or even great ideas. Even blocking mediocre ideas is ultimately detrimental to the forward progress of our culture. Let’s work together and quit pointing fingers.
We are a government, by the people, and for the people. The government is us. Let’s take responsibility.