By Matthew Allen
NORWALK, Conn. — The following was written before the election was held and the winners known. Regardless of the outcome, the sentiments remain the same.
Election Day has come and gone. Perhaps your candidates came out on top and you have a little extra spring in your step as you look to the future. Maybe your candidates didn’t fare so well and you’re left with the feeling a loss of any kind imbues upon your mood. Don’t kick the dog. If he could have voted he would have. Perhaps you’re like me and just happy it’s over so that we can get back to real issues that aren’t laced with campaign rhetoric. Because no matter which candidates got the nod, the day after needs to be one that focuses on moving forward for everyone.
Now that the election is over, how will the newly elected seek to govern? Campaign rhetoric, promises and smiles are nice for influencing your vote. However, that’s done now. Your vote won’t be needed for a couple more years and you’re likely to take a little nap from the issues that don’t have a direct impact on your life. For the elected officials though, candidate mode is over and governing mode needs to move ahead. Whether the winners were incumbents or challengers, both have decisions to make on how they plan to govern in the wake of this election. As they say, talk is cheap and campaigns are chock full of talk.
Regardless of the margin of victory or which party finds itself in control, our elected officials need to find a way of working together across party lines. They can choose to build consensus and unify the broader community, or they can choose to take their victory as a mandate to follow their own agenda. But just because one side may have the votes to make something happen, doesn’t always mean they should. While it may get the job done, it often results in long-term dysfunction, animosity, and a never-ending political grudge that carries on from one election to the next. That is the state of our national government and I’m not so sure it is something we want to replicate at the local level any more than we already have. Ping pong politics, where the same issues are batted back and forth with every change in power, does not provide outstanding results for the electorate. It is a waste of time, energy, money, resources and the public’s patience.
No matter who won yesterday, my hope is those who were elected will actually try to create some unity out of all this. Hear what the other side had to say and try and bring them into the fold. My hope is also that the constituents will support their candidate in taking the bold stand of finding common ground and not merely play the zero sum game. It is very easy for the victorious side to use their power while they can. Why shouldn’t they? They won and their time to act is limited. But good results are never that easy. The best results produced by government are not one-sided. They happen when opposing groups work to reach a level of agreement that can be built upon, rather than torn apart by the next election. Those are the outcomes best suited to standing the test of time and where the city will benefit the most.
Mistakes were made, words were spoken, names have been called, and allegations have been made. Politics was not for the faint of heart even before the Internet and 24-hours news cycle made campaigning into a full-time blood sport. It really is at its worst during the election cycle, and for that we are all to blame because we either participate in it or tolerate it.
But no matter which candidates won the vote yesterday, it will be up to all of us to help ensure a positive outcome. Whether your candidate won or lost, hopefully we can all find a way of making that happen. I’m not taking bets or laying odds, but wishful thinking can’t hurt.
Best wishes to all of those who were given the privilege of being elected. Do the right thing.