I Came Out of a Weekend Immersed in Politics- and I Liked It
This past weekend I attended my first county political party convention. I did so as a new Precinct Chair. I did not know what to expect. Curiosity was high and expectations hopeful. Some eight hours later I left more encouraged and inspired than I might have expected. Given the division and anger in American politics today, this was a pleasant surprise.
So why the happy face conclusion? There were moments of eye rolling and periods of concern, some of what I experienced gives me hope.
Good News Was In Evidence
- This was as multigenerational event as I have seen in a long time. Teens, young adults, young families, seniors – everyone was there. More importantly, everyone was participating. Lots of boundaries of age, race, economics, etc. were set aside for a day.
- People chose to remain civil. A lot of very difficult issues came up, with strong feelings all around. Yet, people seemed determined not to go to battle lines immediately. There was an atmosphere of searching for common ground and mutual understanding. I saw much less of the “arguing to win” vs “arguing to educate” ambiance than there might have been.
- An interesting mix of idealism (what do we want) and practicality (what can we get done and how shall we go about it) was in evidence. I watched people balance those often competing imperatives in a healthy way, all day long. Not many seemed interested in extremism or litmus tests. They wanted to advance a broad agenda and build a winning approach to national issues.
- Compromise found its rightful place in politics. Few took umbrage at the idea that a little compromise can be a good thing, not a surrender of values. The general setting was that people wanted to find win-win results. To accomplish that, they were willing to give ground from time to time. They accepted that those on the other side of an issue felt strongly and deserved a respectful hearing.
- Technology helps good political process. We have half a dozen elections and over 80 (!) resolutions to work through. In an earlier day, this would have taken many more hours to grind through. Being able to download the data earlier and to share changes as they were made sped the day along nicely.
It’s nice to spend time with people who care. My own little precinct delegation was an example of that truism. My delegation ranged from teenagers to people in their 80’s. Everyone came prepared for the work at hand and hung in there for the entire day. And they did so in good spirits. They were inspiring. I saw the same thing happening all through the auditorium with other delegations.
Whether or not this bit of good news is widespread or not is unknown at this point. Whether or not it could be sustained in the heat of a national campaign also remains to be seen. It is doubtful, but possible. Our local community, like yours has some practice rounds coming up at congressional district and state-wide gatherings. Wish us all luck.
A lot of Americans would very much like to see a campaign season that is passionate but not vile. I wonder if we, as a nation, could find our way to make it so.
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