Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen

This past weekend I participated in the League of Women Voters YouTube interview session.  This is another great service provided to the voters that, if I was not running for office with concomitant demands on my discretionary income, I would certainly support.

One of the last questions they asked was: "What do you wish that citizens knew about the office for which you are running?"

That's a delicate question because I like to presume that most voters know about what a Delegate does; not necessarily because they do, but because it is important not to underestimate the electorate.  Nevertheless, my response can be summarized in one word - Collaboration.  The one thing I wish more voters understood (and accepted) was that members of the legislature are elected to collaborate towards reaching the common good.  We live in an individualistic culture that rewards those who break out from the herd.  Even the most romanticized theatrical depiction of what it is like to serve in the legislature, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", used as its centerpiece a filibuster of one.

When members of the legislature set their sights on executive office, you'll commonly hear descriptive terms like maverick, fighter, or independent leader.  Rarely do you see a legislator run for Governor with the moniker "Plays well with others."

And boy do we hear about fighting during the campaign season.  "I will fight for X!"  Whenever I hear one of these promises, I think of the converse.  "I will fight for smaller class sizes!"  Who are you fighting?  Sure, some policies and budget cuts indirectly increase class sizes, but there is not exactly a "large class size caucus" who will receive your volleys.

I've made it a point to run honestly and tell you all from the beginning that my focus is to collaborate, team-build, and welcome all comers to the decision-making process.  I think one of the root ills of our divisive politics is alienation.  Disagreement is inevitable, but alienation is a choice.  I want to be someone who Republicans can talk to about their concerns and positions.  I want to make sure that those most heavily affected by legislation feel heard before the final votes are counted.  I want to be someone who can build support for important policy, even when that policy is part of the unpopular method of governing.

And that's another important point I didn't make in the interview, but later wanted to include - not every decision the government makes is going to be popular.  Once you say that out loud, it seems so obvious, but when you look at the rhetoric coming from social media and in the Op/Ed pages, you realize it's not.  There is some presumption that in a democracy, every decision should be a popular one or it is wrong.  That is a very dangerous presumption.  And incorrect.

Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!  Also, if you get a chance, please read MM's great piece on the race in 9B.