Sharing the burden of governing
Each year prior to the start of a new legislative session members of the House and Senate are allowed to ‘pre file’ legislation. Some legislators take advantage of the opportunity while most wait until the formal start of the session to officially file their legislative proposals. It’s hard not to notice a trend in that some colleagues use the opportunity to introduce ‘message’ bills that appeal to their base supporters while simultaneously enraging the opposition. What is disappointing about the tactic, however, is that it shows that some colleagues do not appear to feel the weight of the burden of governing.
We simply do not have the luxury of tired political stereotypes of old.
At a time of enormous disequilibrium in our nation, we need to find a pathway toward reconciliation, collective ownership of the work of leadership, and alignment on tough policies from education to jobs to the environment. There are already 30 bills profiled. Some are innocuous but some are unsettling at best and politically incendiary at worst. From restricting the right of women to reproductive rights to reducing recent gains in gun safety and eliminate the state’s paramount duty to amply fund public education, some proposals seem to be introduced to elicit an aggressive reaction from Democrats. They are designed to show an invitation to battle not to dialogue. Many of them are particularly designed to enrage opponents more than engage in policy discussion.
One perennial bill would create a new state, Liberty, in the area of Eastern Washington. And each year our Democratic friends from Eastern Washington quietly and respectfully ask fellow Democrats not to take the bait and respond in such a way as to further inflame emotions of the sponsors. Yet year in and year out the bill resurfaces and is formally introduced and, to avoid inflaming relationships further, dies a quiet death in the legislative process. What would happen if majority Democrats in the House, for example, allowed the bill to move to the floor of the Chamber for a vote? Is that really what the Republican leadership wants to say to the seven million people of Washington?
Imagine for a moment if the tables were turned and some urban Democrats pre-filed angry, resent-filled bills that unleashed cliches about urban versus rural narratives designed to stir the emotions of the other side and appeal to anger rather than calm dignity of governing. It is easy to imagine editorials statewide and the public at large condemning the move as undignified. And they would be right to do so.
With the incoming Trump Administration introducing unpredictability in financial markets, federal revenue sharing, global trade and more, we need a sense of unity and alignment as One Washington more than ever. We need a thoughtful recognition of our collective challenges. We need partnership not division to change the tone and tenure of the conversation.
The economic and social challenges of urban and rural America are real. We need a new dialogue, a new approach and a recognition that shared prosperity is our only path forward in the long run. We need to honor the discord as an opportunity to listen more deeply to one another.
We face unprecedented challenges as a state. We have so much to be grateful for. Yes, rural areas are the breadbasket of agriculture and small town quality of life. But they are so much more. Yes, urban areas are an economic powerhouse of innovation. But they are so much more. There is room for us to stretch outside of the bounds of tired cliches and see the quiet dignity in our entire state.
Now is not the time not to retreat into status quo political battles but to rise to a shared sense of moral and public obligation to govern.
Together we can do all those things we cannot do alone.
We are so much more than what we’ve become.
Your partner in service,
Note: I had elected to take a break from blogging but am now back in the game.