Note: I hope no phrase in this message is partisan. Forgive me (and point it out to me) if I stray. I write not for a candidate but for us, the voters, the everyday leaders required to make a representative democracy function.
Well into my adulthood, I nurtured aspirations of being a political leader. I have experienced politics as a spectator, campaign worker, campaign manager, advisor to candidates, and spouse to a former Attorney General and Governor (of Michigan). Like most all Americans, I have had a love-hate relationship with it all.
The primary season has left a trail of bodies. 16 Republican hopefuls, with their contributors, workers, families and fans are left to wonder whether it was and is worth it. The Bernie supporters wonder whether they have truly begun a revolution, how to continue it, and perhaps wonder whether to give up. I imagine that even party leaders like the Bushes and Romneys are left with rising levels of distaste for the system they have given much of their life to.
I’ve been wrestling with how I enter this season, for I am deeply divided. I have my candidate whose positions I feel lucky enough to align strongly with, and I have my love for free and fair elections. But I also have my disdain (to the point of nausea, at time) about how the candidates, the parties, the media, and US — that is the US that ultimately is the U.S., have been behaving.
I am making four pledges. I hope they will keep me resilient rather than resentful, and purposeful rather than self-pitying.
- I will continually talk about my vision for the country that I believe in. I will seek not to incite fear, but to speak to what I believe is possible (things like justice, growth, opportunity, and freedom).
- I will not reduce my political speech to name-calling. I fervently believe the presidential candidates should model civil behavior, refusing to call others “stupid” or “idiots” or other words we teach 7-years old not to use. So there is no reason in a democracy that I should not hold myself to that same standard. I must stop….tempting though it may be.
- I will listen. There is a lot I don’t understand, e.g., about people’s fears of their guns being taken away. And I know there’s a lot that others don’t get about things I believe in, e.g., that government spending actually can be a good thing. I am not going to understand others without listening, and they’re not going to understand me if all I do is talk, not making the effort to appreciate their questions, fears, assumptions, beliefs, experience and logic.
- I will not quit. Resilience comes in part from having purpose and in part from taking purposeful action. Bernie is right that the only thing that will really change the system is — US. It’s what got women’s suffrage, it’s what got us out of Vietnam, it’s what got a Voting Rights Act, and it’s what got us to look at the environment and planet in a different way. I admire the Libertarians who stay in the game, despite their numbers being small. I admire the Pro-lifers who will demonstrate (or pray) all night long in a vigil. I may not agree with them, but I admire the fact that they don’t give up.
We are in the midst of so much change and the worst sense of insecurity I have seen in my 50 years of following politics and people. It’s thus a time for concern, but especially a time for purpose, patience, and positive politics.
How do you think you and we can get through this and emerge stronger than we are today? How do you intend to
Lead with your best self?