Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
No matter how you look at it, this will be an election year to remember in Minnesota. Most expensive Congressional campaign, some of the nastiest negative ads, personal attacks, high voter turnout, no clear win for any political party (more people voting by candidate rather than party), and, last but not least, the fact that we don't yet have an official governor-elect.
The campaigning is over. Our mailboxes and television shows are again free of political ads.
Perhaps "your" candidates all won; more likely some did and some didn't. The reality is that, whether or not you voted for them, those who won this election are now your elected representatives. (Or they will be come January.)
Our whole political system is based on the election of people to represent us in government. Originally, only white men who owned property could vote. Today, all votes count the same, whether the voter rents or owns, is a soldier or farmer, maid or CEO, has a Ph.D. or didn't finish high school.
We elect people to represent our interests at all levels of government. But to do that effectively, our representatives need to know what issues are important to their constituents, and how we want them to represent us on those issues.
So please don't think your job is done now for another two or four years. Ours is a participatory system of government. Voting is one essential, but small, way to participate. Communicating with our representatives is another. Answer their surveys, send them an e-mail, write them a letter. They want and need to hear from us "average guys." Otherwise, their decisions will be based on what they do hear, and that's often from special interests, lobbyists, and party bureaucrats.
These men and women were elected to represent you. They work for you. Not their political party. Not big business. Not fringe groups that are good at lobbying for their special interests. They work for you, and your family, and your business.
Our state representatives have been good at staying in communication. They often send updates on legislative activity for use in the Tri-County News, and these always include multiple ways to reach them with feedback.
Give it to them! Whether you agree with them, their decisions, or their party platforms, they need to hear from you.
On a local level, did you know all meetings are open to the public? I invite you to come to a city council, township, school board, or watershed district meeting. Your view of government will change. You'll see your representatives in action, and see how they make the many difficult decisions that face them.
I'm often struck by some of the similarities between being in political office and running a newspaper. People may get made at you for doing (or not doing) something, even though they never told you that's what they wanted. Many are happy to sit back and only criticize. Those who are happy with how things are going often stay quiet about it. And it can sometimes feel like a thankless job.
But those hundreds of us, both news people and politicians, who put ourselves out there every day have a passion for it. We want to do what's right. And we want our constituents (or readers) to have input in the process.
Now that our much-needed school levy has passed, I invite you to attend their meetings. See what problems they face, and what solutions they consider before making decisions. Hear how things are working. Learn how you can help. If you have a gripe, there is protocol to address your concerns and needs. Communicate with teachers, administrators, and the board.
Our government works best when it is transparent and accountable. But your participation in that process is essential.
Voting last week was a good start. Now let's roll up our sleeves and get to work!