In Our View: New voices in politics boost our democracy As Clark County — and counties throughout the nation — prepare for Election Day, candidates are not the only things on the ballot. Americans will once again be voting on Nov. 7 to support our form of democracy. It is heartening to see new voices joining the political conversation. Clark County Commissioner Eileen Quiring and Councilor Julie Olson, both Republicans, are seeking new roles in government. The Vancouver City Council has three seats up for election. More than 50 women throughout the county are seeking office. This is what democracy looks like. It is a chance for voters to shape our communities and determine what we want out of our leaders. With an engaged electorate, democracy thrives. From the national stage on down, the United States needs new voices in politics. As we have previously noted, many politicians seem to prioritize the perpetuation of their careers over the betterment of their communities. For stability and continuity, this can be valuable. But it also can lead to entrenched leaders becoming out-of-touch and complacent. Ideally, elected officials would serve and then go back to their communities. Yet, particularly in Congress, politics has become a lifelong profession. This is not a new development — in 1787, the framers of the Constitution included term limits for the presidency, but not for Congress. As the Founding Fathers hoped, the president’s office would revolve among citizens, while the Senate and House of Representatives would provide experience and historical knowledge. The system seemed logical at the time. As long as the president and members of Congress were limited to serving a single term, it would provide a rotation of new leaders while allowing for continuity. The framers envisioned that the concept would prevent the consolidation of power, providing checks and balances. But tradition trumped their hopes. Only one president, George Washington, adhered to the notion, and it has since been discarded. In the 21st century, with more polarization and more division among citizens, there is an increasing need for new voices. This is particularly true in Congress, where the political class has grown distant from its constituents. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman from Utah, recently announced he will not seek re-election in 2018, saying, “I just have a sense that after 1,500 nights away from my home, it is time to get back to the private sector and to my family.” That sentiment is shared by many Americans. As a result, new voices are needed to ensure that government represents the will of the people. In Washington state, the Republican Party seems to be limping toward irrelevance. Democrats hold comfortable majorities in the Legislature and control all but one statewide elected office. The state GOP seems stuck in a continual cycle of infighting and myopia. That is unhealthy for a democracy. Competing ideas and viewpoints drive the political system. Any organization that regularly insists on purging dissenting voices will become calcified and out of touch. As difficult as it may be, parties must embrace disagreement and discussion. The same goes for the wider political scene. In addition to the aforementioned races, Vancouver’s port commission is electing a new member, and Port of Camas-Washougal residents have the opportunity to elect three new commissioners. Debates throughout the area have focused on affordable housing, jobs, the economy, parks, criminal justice, the environment, and taxes, among other things. Candidates must be well-versed in these topics, and they must be open to hearing constituents and incorporating their concerns. A democracy stagnates when power is consolidated and statistics are valued over the voices and lives of the people. These elections provide an opportunity to prevent such stagnation. It is vital that residents take advantage of that opportunity and cast a ballot. Apathy is the enemy of democracy, and a lack of participation leads to elected officials who are unaccountable to their constituents. As we often note, elections have consequences. Voting is the opportunity to have a say in those consequences and to work toward a better future. This year, residents have the chance to help guide our communities with new voices in politics. Ultimately, the health of our democracy depends on the involvement and engagement of the people. Elections matter, and so does participation. We urge all residents to cast an informed ballot by Nov. 7. This is your opportunity to be part of the change you want to see in your community.
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