The Essence of Democracy
My readers know that I never write about politics. However, having just lived through the most polarizing and divisive election in my lifetime, I felt an obligation to address this subject, since the actions of our elected officials can have a major impact on everyone’s financial future. So I’m taking the liberty of providing advice to those politicians newly elected to government. Since few of them actually read this post, I’ve framed it as an open letter for my readers to pass on to those for whom you feel this advice is most appropriate.
Dear President/Senator/Congress Member/Governor/Assembly Member/Councilmember/Supervisor/Other
Congratulations on having been selected by your constituents to serve as their representative in government! It is a great honor but also entails significant of responsibility. I want you to succeed, since we as a nation cannot be successful without your help. But our success can only be achieved if you follow three important precepts:
- The essence of democracy is compromise. Indeed, there would not even be a United States were it not for the extraordinary efforts of a number of representatives from thirteen states in 1787 to create the structure of a national government that satisfied all the participants. It is hard work but it is the only way a democratic government can function. If you are willing to compromise with other elected leaders on legislative solutions to our societal and to our world’s problems, you are on the right path for our mutual success. On the other hand, if you believe that you have all the answers and everyone else must line up behind them, then you do not belong as a leader in a democracy. Quit your job and go run for office in a dictatorship like North Korea.
- Treat others with respect, especially those with whom you disagree. I learned this in first grade and you should have also. If you denigrate others for holding ideas and beliefs that conflict with yours, you will make it that much harder to build the foundation necessary for compromise. I once served on a nonprofit board with a member who took disagreement personally. Her outbursts only served to add tension and make the decision-making process much more burdensome. You don’t have to like the other elected leaders with whom you serve, but you do have to be able to work with them. Divisiveness, and especially childish name-calling, is counterproductive at best.
- Do your job with integrity. You were elected because your constituents felt you are the best person to represent them in solving some of the problems they face. Every night you should look in the mirror and ask yourself what you’ve done that day to help others. If alternatively you ran for office for the sole purpose of preening your vanity, or (even worse) to enrich your personal wealth or that of your associates or friends, then you are not representing the American values that you espoused during the election, and do not deserve to remain in office.
I wish you the best, and hope you will take these precepts to heart. By working stronger together we will keep America great!