Now that the mid-term elections are (thankfully) behind us, maybe it’s time for a little confession and some reflection.
First confession: I’m a progressive, maybe even a Socialist. That worldview stems partly from my experience with Sweden and Swedes over much of my career.
Granted, it’s a Socialist country with high taxes. By most measures of government performance and citizen well-being, however, the country works.
Sweden ranks among the best among developed nations and well ahead of the USA in healthcare, education, infrastructure, crime and incarceration rates.
Swedish citizens get more for their money in all those categories than our citizens do. They also live longer.
Second confession: I put the cart before the horse when I voted last November. I cast my ballot, name by name but effectively straight Democratic, before knowing enough about the candidates to make a good choice. We voted early to avoid the anticipated long lines. That part I got right.
My mistake became apparent obvious a couple of days later when we helped out at a League of Women Voters candidates’ forum.
One of our picks turned out to be totally unqualified. Republicans came off better than some of our other picks as well. Shame on me for voting straight-ticket. Shame on me for not doing the homework first.
A laughable moment at the forum was one Republican candidate’s response to a voter’s comment about improving highway lighting. He said, “Well, streetlights cost money. We’d solve the problem if everybody just cleaned their headlights.”
He was dead serious. Should we patch our own potholes too?
Of course, the big election news was Joe Cunningham’s victory for the U.S. Congress and two others for the Statehouse. Given the influx of newcomers to the area (count us as two, from New Jersey) I wasn’t really surprised.
Huge new communities such as Nexton, Carnes Crossroads and Cane Bay will probably tilt Democratic or at least independent.
Before long, they’ll represent enough votes to swing elections.
These new neighbors will probably support public education, infrastructure spending and, yes, reasonably higher taxes. They’ll vote for individuals more than straight-ticket. They’ll also place more weight on scientific truth than political talking points from the national party – or the pulpit. Separation of church and state and all that.
Hopefully as political winds shift, we can listen to each other and seek common ground more than we do today. It will make things easier, brings us together again and lower the noise level around the holiday table. Maybe even get more of the important things done.
Hopefully, too, more of us will focus on real local issues that affect our everyday lives rather than national party talking points, faith-based issues or other abstractions.
Example: the national parties keep talking about jobs, Jobs, JOBS, yet locally we have the exact opposite problem: a shortage of qualified skilled employees to fill 46,000 here-and-now job openings. In this locale the issue is not job creation but rather public education to close that skills gap.
When our elected leaders take office, hopefully they’ll actually find solutions to offshore drilling threats, public education (especially STEM subjects), highways, healthcare, sea-level rise and crime/gun-violence.
These are the concerns that keep us awake at night. They’re the ones our leaders should work together on first, don’t you think?