Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Radical Empathy and Civic Courage

From a column by Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times:

Democrats will not defeat Trump and his increasingly fanatical, revanchist party by promising the restoration of what came before him; the country is desperate for a vision of something better. Whether or not you share that vision, if you truly believe that Trump is a threat to democracy, you should welcome politics that inspire people to come to democracy's rescue.

As an unaffiliated candidate for public office, one who is offering a "vision of something better" than the income inequality, housing crisis and defunding of social services that we've seen locally, you could say the paragraph above speaks to me, and for me. We not only can do better, we must do better. So much depends on it. And those of us on the left must do better at offering a compelling vision of our shared future, while everyone along the entire political spectrum must commit to courtesy, conversation and compromise with the goal of getting things done for our community, and for our country.

This all speaks directly to the ideas central to my campaign: Radical empathy and civic courage. Radical empathy means making every effort to truly understand the perspective of those with whom you disagree, in the interest of fostering communication and the resolution of shared problems. You could say that, in effect, it simply means being an active listener. Civic courage means having the courage to speak honestly about shared problems, and their causes and effects, and then finding a course of action to address those problems. It also means being able to shoulder responsibility. So, for example, Republicans who voted for Trump must own up to their support for an unrepentant racist and all that that entails. Or, locally, that Democrats must admit to their ownership of the income inequality and housing crisis that occurred on their watch and all that that entails. This is not intended to assign blame and cast aspersions; it is intended to foster honesty and critical thinking. In other words: Listen, take responsibility, and take action.

So often, the solutions to problems are right in front of us - but are obscured by the distorting lens of partisanship and tribalism. Climate change is a great example. A majority of people along the political spectrum believe climate change is happening. It's a global threat, which means we are all affected by it. That being the case, we all need to be invested in addressing it. But when solutions are brought to the table, well, usually the table just gets tipped over due to the turbulence caused by our hyper-partisan culture.

Ah, but guess what? Most of us already agree on solutions - but get our responses scrambled due to the ingrained partisanship in our culture. Democrats widely and wildly agree with solutions to climate change - that are proposed by Democrats. Republicans are onboard with solutions to climate change, too - if they're proposed by Republicans. And then progress comes to a grinding halt - and the world suffers because of it. (For a fascinating article on the partisan barriers to addressing climate change, please click here.)

Let's be clear though: The word "solution" isn't spelled with an "R" or a "D." It's just a solution. I have personal and professional experience, in the role of an elected official, working with people all along the political spectrum to find solutions to environmental problems - solutions that everyone could buy in to. It can be done, and it must be done.

We must do this not because there is "too much" at stake. We must do this because everything is at stake. Here in Benton County, I know we can do better. That's why I am running for this office: To break down barriers and get the work of the people done.

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