Clarity of purpose amidst chaos
Winston Churchill’s comment that Democracy is the worst form of government other than every other system attempted is reborn this week, as the election descends upon us and we are reminded of the beauty and chaos of majority rule.
As I scan the names on the ballot on my table, and reflect upon my own name listed near the bottom of the same sheet as Barack Obama’s, I recall the moment four years ago when I took my first step into elected office. On election day four years ago I knew that I would of course quickly recover emotionally if I was defeated, but I could hardly contain my anxiety of not wanting to disappoint my children with a loss. In fact it was only a minute or so into my victory on election night that I found myself thinking of my opponents family, whom I knew was feeling the opposite of my own joy.
In four years I have matured, made many mistakes, achieved a great deal, seen many successes and pondered the challenges of our day at the state and federal levels. I have read both impressive and pathetic policy reports, learned the nuance of many issues from policy experts and questioned why the power of the status quo seems unrivaled almost regardless of who wins or loses. I have thought a lot about representative democracy and its relationship with direct democracy. I have come to see the awesome power of money in politics up close and personal. I have met lobbyists whose arrogance and abuse of their role is stunning in scope, as well as those who treasure their long-standing noble relationships and will sacrifice a bill for the truth.
I remain deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve in public office if only for a short time. I wish more people could experience the thrill and weight of service, and the sense of public obligation to do good that overrides most ideological considerations.
In four years I have come to realize that there is an operational component to service (ie making the trains run on time) as well as an intangible element to the need for communal purpose, hope, direction and a belief in the possibilities of the future. People want to believe that their representatives give them voice on matters big and small, consequential and trivial. Most do not expect a perfect match nor an exact fit, but they expect conviction of purpose and clarity and alignment of goals.
Yet I find myself stunned at the unforgiving rage of so many directed at President Obama who inherited foreign and domestic disequilibrium of historic proportions. I believe that President Obama has helped to lift up this nation, to bring out the best in people, to see the possibilities of unity and common resolve. I believe he has been an extraordinary, effective and dynamic president and I’m honored to see my name on the same ballot in service to our nation.
A nation needs a leader who calls us to our higher nature. President Obama, like the great idealist Robert Kennedy, appeals to our better angels of care for our neighbors and our society. He has, in my view, served our nation with quiet dignity and noble integrity.
I have worked for four years to tackle major ‘systems’ issues from economics and job growth to education (early learning, K-12 and higher education), foster youth, open textbooks, e-government, tax reform and technology. There are those who have disappointed that I have not followed a predictable ideological path of Democratic orthodoxy on every issue. There are those who find that view refreshingly independent. I can only engage in this service, and ask my family to make the sacrifices needed for public service, by balancing the three C’s of service: conscience, constituents and caucus. My goal is to place a premium on the first two and give them added weight in any policy decision.
Serving our community and state has been a joyous, stressful, amazing, humorous, engaging and invigorating experience. It’s been wonderful even when it’s been awful.
On Tuesday, my deepest hope is that President Obama will be re-elected, Referendum 74 will pass and many other critical races impacting our state and nation. While I am likely to win given our district’s party makeup, regardless of how much longer I serve I don’t believe I will ever become numb to the expected nervous energy and natural anxiety about being on a ballot. I’m so honored to have this opportunity on behalf of the people of our community and our state.
Thank you for being a part of my service and civic engagement by visiting this blog, a small effort at transparency, on occasion.
In 2008 my friend Scott White, (may his memory be a blessing), a candidate for the House in the 46th District, and I spoke privately nearly every day about our respective races. We cared about each others race almost as much as our own. Scott went on to serve in the Senate before his untimely passing one year ago.
Serving in Olympia has been a genuine honor. I want to thank the people of the 36th for this wonderful honor and opportunity and my wife Wendy and our children for making it possible. On election night this year, regardless of the outcome in the races I care most about, I will express my thanks to the people for maintaining the dignity of representative democracy throughout our nation’s history and for an opportunity to play a small part in it. And I will raise a toast to the memory of my dear friend Scott whom I treasured like a brother.
Your partner in service,