Hold on to the Reins


By the time this is printed the November 6th election will be over and half the electorate will think the world will end and the other half will think their prayers have been answered. And the half that didn’t vote will point to the outcome as justification for their laziness. If this representative government is going to work, we can’t expect our elected representatives to be smarter, work harder, or care more about our lives than we do. Don’t ever expect you can let loose of the reins if you know where you want to go.

From sewer district commissioner to governor, we ask our elected representatives to do the work we don’t have time for in our busy lives. But representation, by its nature, is a deeply flawed process; we give our voice to someone who votes, acts for us. Who would want to do this work for us? Can we find someone, anyone? It’s not always easy.

In my first elected position, county coroner, I was asked to fill the office when the previous elected coroner resigned. In our county, the new doctor in town was always expected to serve as coroner, and I was the newest. I was appointed. Then, in two years I stood for election, repeating that every four years. Sometimes an opponent filed. I always wondered if the voters actually knew what the coroner did. To be honest, when first appointed, I didn’t have a full picture of all the duties of the county coroner. But I worked at it for 15 years. I was amazed that every new doctor coming to town refused the position. I started to feel like a bit of a sucker.

County Coroner is a partisan position, but I ran and served as an “Unaffiliated”. If I had been partisan, the local party might have tried to recruit a replacement. Instead, there were 2 or 3 last-minute write-in candidates in the primaries. And it turned out just fine. At that time, I had little faith in the value of party politics, but searching for, seeking people to serve in public office is a valuable function. But partisan loyalty may be their measure of qualification. Do you want to hand the reins of choosing representation over to a party organization?

In my second elected position, state senator, I was asked again to consider running. I chose to, I worked hard and got elected, then reelected twice before getting unelected in 2016. But I’d learned that I needed to start recruiting candidates, encouraging people to consider public service. After every election, I did my best to thank every candidate that ran for office, win or lose, commend them for their interest, and encourage their effort. I met with many people in the district and talked to them about their situations, their interest in public service and encourage their participation in this representative experiment.

If you are exhausted, frustrated, elated or depressed about this election, I want you to think about just where you think this wagon is going, and who might best serve in our communities. If you are thankful for your representation, let them know, and tell your neighbors. If you think the wagon is off the path, start looking around. But don’t think you can let loose. The common good is not served by dangling reins.


About ddxdx

A Family physician, former county coroner and former Idaho State Senator
This entry was posted in Gazette Column, Idaho Politics. Bookmark the permalink.