Maybe It’s Time to Change the People

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American politics are a hot mess right now. I could write books about what is wrong with the U.S. Congress and most Statehouses, but we don’t need yet another assessment of what is wrong. See, I think all the news coverage focusing only on what is wrong (bad news sells) is a big part of the problem. Polls, commentators, political pundits, and armchair activists all declare that all hope is lost and the ‘wrong’ side is winning. This constant fearmongering and ‘us against them’ frame distracts us from demanding more of the people we elected to office. We didn’t elect them to fight. We didn’t elect them to shut down the government to get attention. We elected them to solve the real problems we are experiencing.

Some of you may think, “MY elected official is not the problem!” We can point our finger at those acting like fools and try to shame them to do better. But shame won’t work. Others have tried, and clearly, that ship has sailed. We can continue to bellyache about what is happening, or we can get about the business of doing the one thing that will make a difference—change the people.

I was at a conference recently, and an elected official said, “If you can’t change the people, change the people.” The simplicity of the message hit me like a ton of bricks. If the folks in office right now are NOT serving our needs, we NEED NEW PEOPLE. We must fight against voter suppression, gerrymandering, negative ads, election officials who cheat to win, and other foolishness, but we MUST work together to get DANGEROUS PEOPLE out of government.

Sadly, there is foolishness on all sides. There are Democratic and Republican elected officials guilty of corruption who need to step aside for the sake of their constituents and the health of our democracy. Folks planning third-party runs only to piss off the party that refused to embrace their fringe candidacies. And want-to-be dictators who will stop at nothing to win back power must all be defeated!

If you can’t change the people, change the people!

I used to believe that with honest and thoughtful dialogue, we could overcome our differences and live up to the American dream of democracy. But right now, with some of the people in office, I don’t think we can’t get to this place.

When I moved to Washington, DC, nearly 35 years ago, I believed in the public policy process. Legislators who worked with the opposing party were applauded. Public policy was informed by research and data, and hearings allowed legislators to learn from and communicate with their constituents and other stakeholders. Our government moved deliberately to consider budget and policy proposals—sometimes at a glacial pace—but progress was often made that improved the lives of Americans.

Even when the process failed (think welfare reform in the 90s) to yield results that benefitted a majority of Americans, the losing side didn’t lie and call into question the integrity of the process.

So, if we can’t change the people wreaking havoc on our democracy, we need to change the people. If you’re reading this post, you’re likely already registered to vote and ready to cast your ballot. However, we MUST do more leading up to the 2024 election.

Start by considering what it means to have qualified candidates run for office. Remember that elections are job interviews. We must put the candidates to the test and make sure they are actually the most qualified to do the job. The basic requirements to run for office say a qualified candidate must be of a certain age, a U.S. Citizen, and live in the state s/he represents. But we need to look deeper than these basic requirements before we give someone the privilege of leading us!

What Qualities Make for a Strong Elected Official?

Making decisions that impact the lives of millions of people demands more than the basic requirements. Popularity is not a good enough reason to give someone the authority to make decisions that impact your everyday life. Opinions of other people are never better than taking time to learn about the candidates and make informed decisions. Intelligence, compassion, thoughtfulness, ability to compromise, and a commitment to racial and gender justice are important to me.Click below and write a few words about what YOU are looking for in the people you elect.

Elections have consequences. We can’t afford to elect the wrong people to represent us. Make a commitment today to create your list of qualities you want to see and use your list to judge the candidates that will seek your vote next year. It’s not too early to start!

In solidarity,

Stephanie McGencey, WE CAN Founder

WE CAN looks forward to seeing you at our upcoming events!

Three upcoming Movies to Movements events focus on teen suicide, lack of quality affordable childcare, and sex trafficking, highlighting their impact on our communities. Please see the details and register below.