CLIFF’S EDGE: We (I) can get even better at this voting stuff…


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While ballots in elections locally and across the country are still being counted, there are far too many conclusions being drawn and distributed as to what the election results mean.

I can’t deny the interest so many of us, including myself, have in election results, but we also have a tendency to look immediately for what they could mean about directions in which the nation may be moving.

I don’t come to that conclusion out of political partisanship, but rather my perception that in the long run it’s not the winners’ boasts or the losers’ laments at the end of this election that really matter.

Rather, I think it’s more a matter of what we all – candidates and citizens – have learned in the course of the election about the issues our respective communities face.

If we’ve been listening in recent months to the many voices that have been speaking, I doubt that we can honestly say we don’t know what those issues are.

Homelessness. Crime. Law enforcement. Financial instability. Racism. Education. Health care…. The list goes on and in no particular order.

Recognizing them is an important first step toward dealing with them, and it’s a relatively easy step. It is much more difficult to step back from our deeply entrenched self-interests and look at these issues with open minds and a willingness to consider the changes going on around us..

That’s what those who have won in these most recent elections and all those who prevail in the waves of elections to follow in the next several months, are being expected to do for all of us.

This certainly isn’t a foolproof system, as history has proven on occasion. It’s also not an easy one for those charged with bringing it to bear on the problems of the day.

We, the electorate, can only hope that in our voting we identify and support those who have the skills, wisdom, determination and statesmanship to fulfill those obligations, whether in Virginia, New Jersey….or Burien.

It’s too soon to know that, and it’s certainly too soon to say where we are in our political evolution or where we’re headed next.

I can’t even be certain about the choices I made for Burien as I cast my ballot. Did I know all the candidates as well as I should have in order to be a knowledgeable voter?

Not really.

I knew none of them personally and had observed their professional, political or personal performances only through what others said about them, whether in political-campaign literature or media.

I found both those channels of some assistance, but they could be made more effective and those with an opportunity to improve their performance should be encouraged to work at that.

And I acknowledge that with or without their help, I could work at being a more effective voter.

The key word in this quest for achieving a consistently improved election process and, ultimately, consistently valued governance is work.

Sloganeering, campaigning, political posturing are easy compared to the task of researching societal problems, honestly crafting remedies and legislating them into existence.

And that applies to all of us, including me.

Cliff Rowe is a retired journalist and journalism professor. (He practiced both in a time before journalists and what they produced were considered “enemies of the people.”) He and his family have lived in the Shorewood area of White Center (then Burien) since 1969 when they returned to the Northwest after seven years in the Chicago area. There, following graduate school, he wrote and edited with the Chicago Sun-Times and with Paddock Publications in the Chicago suburbs. On moving here, he was with The Seattle Times for 11 years before turning to teaching journalism at Pacific Lutheran University for 35 years, retiring in 2015.

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