The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

November 7, 2010

In Election 2010, change suddenly became popular

David A. Knepper

“That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”

 – Thomas Jefferson



Last Tuesday, American voters were neither hesitant nor perplexed as they entered polling booths to mark their choices for state and federal offices.

Finally, they could vent their frustrations and anger at those politicians who were taking America in the wrong direction. 

Seldom do voters seem as determined to send a clear message to politicians: Either lead or face defeat.

When the polls closed and the results poured in to the news media, the winners in this election were those politicians who were acting more as independents, promising to work for a strong economy, to rein in runaway spending, to balance state and federal budgets, to reduce the deficits, and, most importantly, to make government more responsive to the people. 

Such goals resonated among voters.

This election was all about creating jobs and cutting runaway spending.  

It won’t take long for voters to figure out whether those they voted into office will tone down the political rhetoric and begin in earnest to work together, irrespective of party, in moving this nation forward.

Republican leader John Boehner, who no doubt will become the new speaker of the House, indicated that “it won’t be easy, noting the parties differ profoundly in key areas.” 

If they fail to do so, the effects on our economy will be even more catastrophic.

Only time will tell if the two major parties will work together in setting a fresh agenda for positive, sustainable change.

Voters – standing on the sidelines – can only hope that the present political environment will change as party leaders come together to set priorities and pass bipartisan legislation through compromise and consensus-building. 

Hopefully, our elected officials will not forget the mandate the electorate gave to them. And, if these state and federal legislators walk away from their responsibilities for serving the people, then they may be looking for jobs in the private sector after the next election, which, for some voters, may not come soon enough.

However, voters, too, should not be walking away from their responsibilities; that is, they need  to continue to stay informed on key legislation passing through the General Assembly in Harrisburg and in Congress.

This is best accomplished through print and not through the flat screen.

I like to make up my own mind – through reflection and deliberation in the quiet of my home.

I am rather turned off and tuned out to some of TV’s political pundits, who are making millions by screaming in my face that our leaders are bums, or worse. 

I hope most of the voters didn’t place a whole lot of credence in the political attack ads that filled our  mailboxes or that gushed like Niagara Falls into our living rooms in recent weeks. 

Perhaps the late Will Rogers, America’s homespun humorist from Oklahoma, was right when he said that “we always want the best man to win an election. Unfortunately, he never runs.”

Of course, Will tended to exaggerate, but he may have had a point in this case.

Hopefully, in the next election, the candidates will show more respect toward their opponents – and the voters – by staying on message.

Voters should demand from their elected officials that they be more accountable and accessible, and not just when they are campaigning to hold onto their seats.

Is it too much to ask that they attend municipal meetings, rather than sending a member of their staff? 

Given airtime on local radio or television stations, or column space in newspapers, to inform their constituents are opportunities they should readily accept.

Legislators regularly going into our schools certainly is more educational for the students than them hearing a teacher tell his or her class about the political process.

Perhaps a little nudging by our legislators might increase the likelihood that those students 18 or older will vote in the next election.

Remember, going to the polls is just one step in ensuring that democratic principles are safeguarded for the next generation.

I’ll be doing my part.

Can I count on you to do yours?

               

  David A. Knepper is president of Allegheny Development Group LLC and is currently the executive director of the Forest Hills Regional Alliance. He holds a doctorate in educational administration from Penn State. His column appears the first Sunday of each month.