Now the Elections are (almost) Over

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Election season is near the end; where do we go from here. The sad fact is that many newly elected, re-elected and incumbent office holders are starting up their next campaigns. It seems that staying in office is the number one priority of most elected officials in this country. Several factors appear to contribute to this issue.

One is that we have a lot of elections. Many local, state and national elections appear every two, four and six years. Turn around and there is another election for the control of the House of Representatives or the School Board, or City Commission or County Commission or Water Management District. The list goes on and on. It is hard for voters to keep up, so candidates have to work hard to be recognized and supported. As a result, fewer people participate in elections and a targeted minority of a community ends up deciding the results.

A second issue is the bankroll of money needed to finance campaigns. Candidates need money to compete, and they search out financial support even before they seek out votes. PACs and party funds require a commitment to a party line or political position, which in many cases trumps (no pun intended) the wishes of a majority of the voters. Money buys media time and access which defines name and affiliations. These seem more important than policy or programs.

A third issue is position, power and influence. Once upon a time people ran for office to make a difference in their community. They sought to serve the interest of their neighbors, often for no or little salary. Today, many offices pay well, are seen as steppingstones to more influential positions, or to open doors to well-paying private sector jobs. Party control of Boards, Commissions and Legislatures has assumed even more importance, supported by anonymous PACS and political operatives. Once in power, the goal is to remain in power, whatever the cost.

What can be done about it all? One is to seek to reduce the influence of big money (corporations and anonymous PACs are not people!) Another is to seek independent redistricting committees to reduce Gerrymandering. Most important, however is for every voter to demand from candidates and elected officials a clear articulation of the programs and policies they are working to implement. It is not enough to say one is against this group or party or demonize opponents as radical or Communists or worse. What will the person do to make things better for all the citizens of the community? When we demand positive answers and condemn negative attacks, we might then elevate our politics to a place where people might actually want to vote. And politicians might actually work to get things done before they work to get reelected!

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