The morning after
Election Day has come and gone, ushering in a period that’s been an American hallmark until now: The peaceful transition of government.
However, as the word “compromise” has increasingly been replaced by “my way or the highway” in the political lexicon, it’s become at best an uneasy peace.
At its worst, it’s become a time to declare political war on the opposition. Republicans in Congress have publicly proclaimed they already have at least two years of investigations ready to go should Hillary Clinton happen to win. Prominent Democrats have plotted roadblocks and mine fields for a Donald Trump presidency.
Thanks to the primaries, we’re already guaranteed some of the most intransigent partisans in the Kansas Legislature won’t be back, which might be enough of a signal to the remaining old guard to start putting constituents first and Gov. Sam Brownback second. But still, there’s Brownback to contend with.
Growing with the partisan divide has been both the ineffectiveness of government and the public’s discontent with it.
Public discontent has gotten personal, too. It’s far too common these days to stake out one’s political territory and run down anyone who doesn’t agree. Democrats who don’t agree with Republicans, and vice versa, don’t simply have different opinions, they’re not patriots. They’re not true Americans.
That’s perhaps the worst development of all.
So while it’s now the morning after, what’s going to happen with the mornings to come in the days ahead?
The fact is, nothing has changed today, other than our collective relief that the worst presidential campaign of the modern era is behind us.
We still live in a state with the worst economy in the nation; that’s from a new analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which has no dog in the “Brownback against reality” hunt.
We woke up to find the same roads that we had yesterday. No new businesses with loads of good-paying jobs sprang up in the county overnight. At the end of the week, most everyone’s paychecks won’t look any different than last week’s did.
We still have our closely-held beliefs about what should have happened, and what should happen. How can we move forward?
Well, start by believing what we know to be true: each new morning is cause for hope that change for the good is coming.
There was hope in 1984. Ronald Reagan’s now iconic “It’s morning in America” re-election ad was hype, it cherry-picked the facts, but it was positive and forward-looking. I watched it again yesterday and found myself wanting to rewind the clock to vote for him. Even then I was the family’s black-sheep liberal. It was that good. People believed, Reagan was re-elected, and on many fronts, we moved forward.
No politician since has had Reagan’s gift for communication, the art of building bridges even as he advocated for his own agenda. If he didn’t do what I wanted, at least I felt like he was paying attention. Communication was the key.
We’ve done pretty well in Marion County to pull together after local elections. We’ll always find something our elected officials could do better or differently, but by and large we know how to bury hatchets somewhere other than in their backs.
That’s because they’re accessible, and among neighbors, we’re far more willing to listen and compromise. We still have differences and road blocks, but they’re not as big as some imagine.
If we’re going to get out of the state and national ruts we’re in, then we the people have force good ol’ common sense demands for compromise on our elected officials. Keep principled stands, but look for small steps to move ahead together, rather than demanding the whole enchilada and throwing tantrums.
Communication is a two-way street, but we’ve become complacent. We let the politicians do all the talking, we let them set the terms by which they communicate with us, and that’s most often talking or writing at us, not with us.
If our mornings are going to get better, it’s time to embrace Howard Beale’s impassioned “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
That doesn’t mean turn into a screaming, incensed hothead. But we’re not going to move ahead as a county until people across the political spectrum channel their dissatisfaction into pointed, smart, demanding messages that we won’t stand for business as usual anymore.
There’s another “1984” that comes to mind, envisioned by George Orwell in 1949, of a bleak, dark future society controlled by everything except common people. It’s frightening to me to see how much of Orwell’s vision is unfolding in present day America. If you haven’t read it, I dare you to at least look up a synopsis.
I’ve mentioned before that as I’ve gotten older, I’m getting grumpier. That’s tempered when I look at the incredible potential our kids have. They deserve the same chances and opportunities I’ve had. They deserve a shot at a bright, prosperous “morning in America.”
They’re not going to get it if the only time we weigh in on politics is on Election Day. They’re not going to get it if all we do is hunker down and throw rocks at each other. They deserve better.
On the morning after, and the mornings after that, the only way to move ahead as a county, a state, and a nation is to find ways to move ahead together, whatever it takes. Business as usual has to end, or we will, with a whimper and a thud.
— david colburn