More respect is needed for election outcomes

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There’s no crying over elections.

Or there shouldn’t be. It’s disrespectful to the voters who placed a particular candidate in office.

First, we had protesters and resisters over the legitimate election of President Donald Trump in 2016. Being disappointed that your candidate doesn’t win is understandable. But disrespecting the vote from those who put him in office becomes divisive.

Now, we’re seeing that same mentality creating divisiveness from the midterm elections.

Georgia candidate, Democrat Stacey Abrams, lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp by about 50,000 votes. Abrams had the support of 1,923,582 voters. That’s a lot.

But 1,978,383 Georgians voted for her opponent. That’s a little more and enough to secure the win. These facts—and people—can’t be ignored, but she still disrespected all Kemp voters when she said, “Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession.”

Abrams has claimed possible fraud, but evidence of it has not been produced. What she does have are certified election results—results showing that nearly 2 million Georgians voted for her opponent. It may be tough for her to acknowledge, but a thin win for Kemp is still a win.

Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Martha McSally, also lost her election by about 50,000 votes. She lost the Arizona seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Surely, McSally would have liked to focus on the support she received from 1,059,124 voters. But it would have been disrespectful of the 1,097,321 Arizona citizens who voted for her opponent. She graciously conceded the race by saying, “I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate.”

McSally understands that we’re not entitled to much, but in this country we’re still entitled to vote for the candidate of our choice. And that vote must be respected.

Losing a hard-fought election by just 50,000 votes when 2 million or 4 million are cast must be gut-wrenching. It doesn’t have to be divisive, though.

Divisiveness happens when there’s a refusal to accept that others have the right to form political opinions and vote in a way that doesn’t match your own. It isn’t what we do. It’s what we not allow others to do.

Without this considerate understanding, family and friends can morph into “deplorables” or “leftists” instead of just citizens doing their best for country and family.

And when things don’t go our way, there’s always another opportunity in two, four or six years to try again. Voters don’t always get it right, but they’re pretty good at making adjustments and corrections. Midterms are notorious for that. But in some ways, every election comes down to answering one central question, “Is an adjustment needed?”

Abrams and McSally have proven they are viable candidates with strong support. They are certainly worthy of trying again in their next election cycle, if it’s what they desire. Showing respect for the vote and all voters—whether they were for you or against you—would be a great place to start.

In the last presidential election, my three adult children all voted for a different candidate. Surprisingly, it created a sense of contentment for this fiscal conservative. They think for themselves. It’s what should be expected and then respected of every voter.

Advocate your beliefs without dismissing someone else’s. Exercise your right to vote without disrespecting the vote of others.

You will win some. You will lose some.

Nothing, at all, to cry about there.

The tension with the gender card

Image by Shutterstock.

Image by Shutterstock.

A small, local newspaper produces an annual “Women in the Workplace” special issue. I never paid much attention to it until the paper called to interview me for the upcoming edition. Every day of the past six years, I thought of myself as the owner and manager of a repair shop. The phone call rattled me into thinking about my gender—that I’m a female owner and manager of a repair shop.

There is no annual “Men in the Workplace” issue, so what special thing is going on here? Is it that women are in the workplace or that women are in the workplace? Either way, it implies that something surprising or unusual is going on here. And as long as this type of thinking continues to be the norm, women will have a harder time being recognized and rewarded based on merit alone—an earned and no gender-based kind of success.

The hometown newspaper wasn’t isolated in its strategy. Fortune magazine recently profiled the “50 Most Powerful Women” on its cover. Not the 50 most powerful leaders. And there are several organizations whose only purpose is to get more women elected and help women become more successful in the workplace.

It’s because collectively we’re not there yet. Sheryl Sandberg in “Lean In,” shares that, “Women hold about 25 percent of senior executive positions, 19 percent of board seats, and constitute 19 percent of our elected congressional officials.”

Even though, as an individual, Sandberg doesn’t wake up thinking, “What am I going to do today as Facebook’s female COO…,” she understands that a shift in thinking is required before we see female leaders as just…leaders.

Collectively, advocating for women’s issues and rights must remain. It still needs a voice. But using and playing the gender card, as an individual, in order to achieve personal success isn’t helpful. Earning is better than getting.

The tension is that collective change—more women leaders—happens when enough purely, individual successes occur.

We have several candidates running for the highest office in the land. Two are women—Republican Carly Fiorina and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Clinton announced her presidency by saying, “I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but I will be the youngest woman President in the history of the United States!”

Cringe. She’s smart and tough. There’s no need to call attention to her gender.

When asked a question at the last Republican presidential debate about which woman she would like to see grace the $10 bill—a question that had nothing to do with policy—Fiorina didn’t take the shiny, gender offering. Standing on her merits and not her gender, she responded, “We ought to recognize that women are not a special interest group.”

Better. Smart and tough. And fair.

According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans believe that, “…women are every bit as capable of being good political leaders as men.” It also reports that, “73 percent expect to see a female president in their lifetime.”

So far, that thinking hasn’t translated into votes. But it will come.

Not because it’s some unofficial time in history to have a first ever in the Oval Office, but because the most qualified person was elected President of the United States of America. A leader.

Who just happened to be a woman.

Gridlock begins in the voting booth

Voters lament political gridlock–while they’re encircling the oval for straight party voting.

Straight party voting is, in itself, a form of gridlock. No consideration is given to each candidate on the ballot. Minds are made up with one darkened oval for the party. And when there’s gridlock in the voting booth, it seems disingenuous to bemoan a lack of compromise at the legislature.

It’s a common practice in Iowa. Iowawatch.org, using statistics from the Secretary of State’s office, reported that about a third of Iowans voted a straight party ticket in the 2014 election. But it’s not a common practice nationwide. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Iowa is in the company of just ten other states still allowing straight party voting: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Voting for the party, without selecting each candidate, is trending downward.

Image by Shutterstock.

Image by Shutterstock

Opponents of selecting the oval for straight party voting say it reinforces unhealthy partisanship and also causes non-partisan offices on the ballot to be left blank. Supporters of the practice say that it’s easy to understand and removing the efficient option could mean longer wait times in the voting lines. And, there’s no clear party winner with the practice. Sometimes Republicans benefit and sometimes Democrats. Regardless, even with removing the straight party oval option, voters can still vote 100 percent of the time for their chosen party’s candidates. It just requires selecting each candidate individually.

Since politicians many times fail to find paths of compromise that result in accomplishments for our state and nation, maybe it’s all wrong to think of them as our leaders. Maybe the real leaders are the average voters. By discontinuing the practice of straight party voting and showing a willingness to consider the merits of all candidates on the ballot, voters will be leading by example.

There is, it seems, something unreasonable about straight party voting. Do we really believe that either all Democrats or all Republicans are the “bad guys?” Sounds discriminatory. We don’t discriminate in other areas, and we shouldn’t in our political lives either.

True, we have different viewpoints, opinions and beliefs. And this belief system typically aligns well with one party or the other. It’s pretty simple to align with a party.

Aligning with a candidate is tougher. It takes times to become informed about how one candidate differs from another. How has an incumbent performed in office? What has he or she accomplished? What qualifications or campaign promises does a challenger offer?

Today’s media does make it easier to be informed. Most newspapers have online editions. Social media, although not always the most reliable source, helps by getting people talking about the issues and asking questions. News radio shows have proliferated. Cable television has many channels devoted to non-stop news and commentary, and the steadfast, major networks continue to provide local and world news nightly.

There are typically a dozen or more choices to be made on each ballot. Democrats or Republicans accustomed to straight party voting might consider one candidate from the opposite party who could earn their vote. When in doubt–either from lack of information about the candidate or because both candidates are equally appealing (or equally displeasing)–vote party preference. But if the voter cannot find one, acceptable candidate running opposite his or her party choice, a clearer understanding will develop of why gridlock exists. If voters see only red or blue, why would we expect elected officials to behave differently?

There’s an attitude of gridlock that begins in the voting booth. Adjusting voting behavior, by eliminating the straight party oval option and encouraging voters to consider each candidate, won’t  change the world. But a change in attitude brings a change in expectation, an expectation that politicians who were sent to problem solve–do so. No matter which party is in the majority at the time.

There is hope. In the book, “Political Behavior of the American Electorate,” authors William Flanigan and Nancy Zingale closed their research by stating, “Despite the political elite and political activists, a sizable portion of the electorate is moderate or unconcerned about ideology and lacking in firm partisan attachments.”

Democrats and Republicans voting for moderate and reasonable candidates just might elect a group of workers who can put our state and nation first and partisan politics second. If that doesn’t work, voters might consider joining the growing Independent party. If its numbers keep climbing, it’ll be fielding more successful candidates on the ballot.

Perhaps, then, we will see the death of gridlock.