“All politicians are LIARS!” “What’s the point in voting when my voice doesn’t count and I know I’m being lied to?”
I used to believe those statements. I never realized I was buying into the narrative that continues to keep potential voters from having their voices heard. Because that’s what those statements are designed to do: to keep you silent; to keep you from exercising your right as a citizen to vote. Whether you say those words to yourself or somebody says them to you, it’s time for all of us to stop believing them.
Voter suppression has a long history in this nation. The most well-known aspect involves efforts to exclude Black and Brown people from the democratic process. But poll taxes, voting exams, physical and economic threats and intimidation are only the most noticeable tactics used to prevent people from voting. The most insidious form of voter suppression is the development of a narrative that convinces people to dissuade themselves from engaging in the process that gives them political power — regardless of skin color or economic status.
People seem to forget that politicians work for us, for you. From your local and state lawmakers to the Congresspeople who speak on your behalf in Washington to the president — they are all public servants.
We need servant-leaders in positions of political power — true leaders, not just people who bear the titles. So, ask yourself, “What manner of man or woman would I choose to follow?” Is he honest? Is she disciplined? Is he kind? Is she full of integrity? Does he inspire you to be better? Does she ask you how she can best meet your needs? Or does he castigate you when you come up short of the expectations he just so happened to forget to convey to you?
What manner of leader deserves your support?
I readily concede that a perfect leader does not exist, just like there does not exist a perfect person. So, rather than place our focus on the personal flaws of the politicians, why don’t we change things up a little? Let’s do some homework and find out what each of the human beings running for office stands for. And right before we do that, lets ask ourselves a question: What do we stand for? What are our core values? What are our personal visions for change in our town, state and nation?
Then, instead of toeing the party line, asking which one is a Democrat or Republican, ask which candidate best represents our values and vision.
When I first heard she used to be a district attorney, I was reticent to support Kamala Harris as a leader of this nation. I thought of Gov. Mills’ background and the false hope into which I blindly fell before she took office. I had visions of further decline under Harris’ leadership into a police state, where law enforcement would have even more military weaponry, prison sentences would get even longer, and mass incarceration would continue its expansion, becoming one of the biggest industries in the United States.
Then I thought of D.A. Natasha Irving and her vision of a truly restorative criminal justice system. My editor put me on to an op-ed in USA Today about Harris’ history as a prosecutor, written by Niki Solis, a former opponent of hers in the court system. I read about Harris’ efforts to care for the young women and girls trapped in a life of prostitution, her co-founding of the Coalition to End the Exploitation of Kids. Solis also shared Harris’ progressive positions on marijuana crimes and the prosecution of young adults.
Please, do your homework. When looking at this year’s candidates, set aside your political views and instead evaluate your personal values. Who best represents the vision you have for the kind of town, state and nation you want your children to grow up in? It takes a little more work, but if we would all stand up and let our voices be heard on the topics that matter most to us, maybe — just maybe — we will finally hold our leaders accountable to the fact that they work for us. If they break our social contract, they’re fired. It’s time for us to look for servant-leaders, and not settle for less.
Not all politicians lie. My skepticism changed thanks to state lawmakers like Rachel Talbot-Ross, Jeff Evangelos, Bill Pluecker, Thom Harnett, Pinny Beebe-Center, Charlotte Warren and Susan Deschambault. Through them, I have been privileged to see the human beings behind the political titles. And Mainer’s cover story this past September, “The People’s Choice,” showed me another human being potentially worth my vote: U.S. Senate candidate Lisa Savage.
Your voice matters. Your vision matters. Your vote matters. Be heard.
Leo Hylton’s sister, Rosie, is organizing a fundraising campaign to cover tuition expenses for Leo’s pursuit of a Master’s degree via George Mason University. Click here to contribute via GoFundMe.