I had the opportunity to moderate a 5th District candidate forum recently. While the candidates came from different backgrounds and certainly held different perspectives on many issues, there is common thread that unites them all — the desire to serve their community and to make it a better place.
Moderating that debate and pondering the overall dynamics of this upcoming election, I was reminded of my trip to our nation’s capital two years ago this week. At one point on my sojourn, my nose was mere inches away from the most important document in America: The Constitution. In 1787, our founders permanently expressed in ink and sheepskin what had slowly formed in their hearts, minds and action during the 11 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-Party’ or ‘We the Super-PACS’ and especially not ‘We the Millionaires (or their Corporations). It was ‘We the People’.
Well, in two weeks, ‘We the People’ have an opportunity to boldly affirm our nation and our state’s direction. Or, to change it. But 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 truly educate yourself on the people running for national and state office. Not to mention the state initiatives and judicial candidates as well. The state of Washington Voter’s Pamphlet is probably still sitting on your dining room table or in your in-box. Do yourself and your community a favor: Splash some cold water on your face, get a cup of coffee or tea, pick up a highlighter and don’t just idly leaf through the voter’s pamphlet—study it.
And ask yourself: Who are the 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 ideologue from their party’s ‘Central Casting Dept.’ — appointed to carry the elephant or donkey banner? Take a few moments to check out the candidates’ Web sites and Facebook pages and see what they are for and what they will do and who they will work with — not just what or who they are against.
Take some time to also explore the pros and cons of our state initiatives. Who do they help and why? Ask yourself: Does this add a positive element to our state? What is the motivation in the initiative? Better government? Sound fiscal policy? Enhanced life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or, mere politics? Note the small print, both the folks who wrote for and against the initiative. That says a lot.
When the dust settles on Nov. 6, there will be much to do to continue to rebuild the integrity of our country and our state’s divided political system. Regardless of whose name or preferred party ends up in the win column, once again, 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. Our business. That can only be done by doing two simple things:
1: Be brave enough to set aside the politics of divisiveness. Reach across to the aisle to your political opposites and take up the challenge of forging common ground and a mutual purpose to get things done. True politics is the art of consensus building. Pragmatic compromise to achieve action does not mean defeat.
2: Do what is right for our nation, our state and our community, and not just for your party’s agenda.
Voting in a free election is not only our right, it is our duty as citizens of this great land.
Do yourself, your community, and those that fought for your freedom to vote the honor of voting wisely.
William Shaw is publisher of the Issaquah & Sammamish Reporter.