Wednesday, November 3

To American Politicians: Do NOT Misread the American Public

This morning I heard a few post-election celebration speeches. I heard phrases like "the American people have spoken" and "this is a clear win for the ________ party" and "we now have a clear mandate." No, no, and no.

In some places, politicians seem to believe that their win indicates something specific about what the voters want. And yet, if any politicians have been paying attention to the media even a little bit, they'll know that far too many voters were exercising their right to throw out the incumbent just because. It's not because the other candidate is any better because often that's not the case. But the other candidate was not the person in office, so maybe, just maybe there could be actual change.

But then I heard a politician who managed to retain his office talking about the battle not being over and how he pledged to continue to fight and, with a very clear jab at the Republicans, he stated how the best way to govern was not through endless filibusters.

On the radio this morning I heard the government described as "divisive," though perhaps, given the context, she meant "divided." But "divisive" works because the Republicans don't seem to be in any mood to play nicely. In fact, they seem determined to thwart anything and everything the Democrats may try to do.

And how does that help the American people? Oh wait, I know. . .it doesn't!!

An AP report states that the American people are trying to tell the government to "slow down." President Obama, who has had an incredibly ambitious plan for his first term, said:
"I think people started looking at all this, and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people's lives than they were accustomed to," the diminished president conceded. He took responsibility for not doing enough to alter the ways of the capital, from hyper-partisanship to back-room dealing. "We were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn't change how things were done."
This from the man who claimed he would work hard to change the way things worked, or not, in Washington.

We know the country is divided. We heard that throughout this campaign with the hateful language, the attack ads, the name-calling, the finger-pointing, and more. But we also heard responses from the American people that made me wonder how any politician could possibly imagine a way to appease anyone. We know the sticking points: health care, jobs, debt, jobs, taxes, jobs.

This can't be about ideology: I'm right and you're wrong. This has to be, I think, about finding common ground to provide the best possible solution for the majority of the American people. Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." But my favorite Lincoln quote that I would love to share with politicians is this one: "I am a firm believer in the American people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts."

Let's just forget about who the American voter might be punishing or rebuking and who we might be celebrating or embracing. Let's just acknowledge that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have all of the answers. Let's acknowledge there is room in this great country for the Greens, the Libertarians, the Independents, and yes, the Tea Partiers. But let us remember that the federal government is "we the people" and we the people really can be depended upon to meet national crises.

So if given the opportunity to address politicians, I would say this: "Just tell us truth, no matter how ugly or painful. Just give us the real facts. Only then can we begin to trust you, only then can we begin to have any confidence in you and your willingness to do what's best for the country rather than worrying about your re-election or your legacy. Only then can we begin to make good decisions to support you or to let you know what is really working for us or what is not working for us. Keep in mind we don't all have to agree and we won't. But don't fill us with false hope by pretending to promise quick changes because we may need to reminded that some things just take time. As much as it seems not to be part of a politician's DNA, be honest. Try it; you just might find that Lincoln was right to believe in the American people."

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