I am running for a seat on the City Council of my home town. I am well aware that I am running for an office that represents citizens of a wide variety of political persuasions. That might surprise some people, given the fact that it is Provo, but it is true and increasingly so where I live. Whoever wins this seat, to be successful, will need to be a good and sincerely respectful listener to all voices. I am attracted to this position precisely because it is a non-partisan race and because of my commitment to build broad consensus. I am tired of a country torn by partisan strife where people seem to believe that loyalty to party is more important than loyalty to country or to community. I would say three things in responds. First, I don’t believe the hot button national issues of our day are directly relevant to the running of a city. Second, I believe there is good in all parties and a city is stronger for listening to more voices. And third, I am also well aware of the importance of representing everyone. Besides, party purism is what Jefferson once called an “addiction,” one we would all do well to avoid. The best and wisest decisions come from broad participation of diverse voices and it would be my job to listen, involve others, and make my own reasoning and judgments transparent to my constituents. I want us to come together, not push each other away, and I believe I have the disposition and skills to do just that.
I have been reading lately about the strong warnings the Founders offered about the dangers of partisanship, which were chief among their reasons for creating our separation of powers in the Constitution.
Listen to three examples:
“I never submitted the whole system of my opinion to the creed of any party of men.. where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven with a party, I would not go there at all.” —Thomas Jefferson
“The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”– George Washington
“There is nothing I dread so much as a division of the Republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” –John Adams
These seem to give us pause. I don’t imagine that there is such a thing as political neutrality when it comes to governing. Everyone has their leanings, their tendencies, and predilections. And these are both insightful at times and a source of blindness. But for that reason, I believe in the importance of good judgment, the value of listening to diverse voices, and pragmatic common sense. I haven’t always had good judgment, and I have sometimes failed to listen to all sides. And I know I sometimes lack common sense. But as I have aged and learned from my mistakes, I have gained a deeper desire and appreciation for these skills and believe that with proper humility and good will toward others, most of the time I can get things right.