It is time to stand together, overcoming fear and extremism, our community must develop a new vision of Government to resist incivility in the era of Donald Trump.
I live in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and I live in an amazing community. I live in a town where people really support and stand up for one another. We have disagreements, but we come together to make our community one of the best places to live in the world. Indeed, if I experienced a place with a better community, I would relocate.
When we think about community, what comes to mind? Our family, our town, our state, or our country? When I use the word community, I am thinking about different levels of community. To me, my close friends, co-workers, and family are community, but so are my city and county. Beyond my local geographic community, I feel deeply connected to the community that is my state of Idaho; I feel deeply connected to my greater community of citizens living in these United States of America.
As I continue to think about community, I start to realize that I see government as a part of my community. It is difficult for me to see the people and structures of government as that much different from the community of my day to day life. I can personally impact the persons, roles, and process of the government on a state and local level. Those structures of government in return are able to impact me. Beyond the structure of government, the members of government are in our community. We pass on the sidewalk, and we meet at local community events. These people are intimately tied to the community and to our state and local government. To further explain my feeling of community, I reference Abraham Lincoln who called the United States of America a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Lincoln emphasized that government is not something separate for us, but something in which we get to meaningfully engage. Government is created by our community and becomes an important part of our community.
Recently one of Idaho’s elected officials, Rep. Raul Labrador, stated with confidence that, “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” After this statement the audience became very upset. Following the frustrations from that town hall, citizens across the state of Idaho and across the nation also expressed exasperation at this statement. The exasperation was so great that nobody listened to his follow up statements or his attempt at clarification in the coming days. Labrador went on to discuss, write, and state over and over in the coming days he does believe people should be provided health care, but he just does not think that the government should be involved. Instead, he thinks the community should provide for each other.
When you unpackage Labrador’s position it begins to quickly unravel. He thinks the government should provide emergency health care services, but he thinks that the community should provide preventative care. The distinction between the two seems relative and unclear, but the bigger issue from my point of view is that he has lost the idea that government and our community are the same thing. He has lost the very point of our United States government which was formed by “We the People.”
Labrador loves spouting lines about how government is bad, and yet he never considers in the next line that he is a member of the government. He appears to want to make government less responsive and less engaged with the community. He wants the government to become something that is done “To the People” versus “For the People.” As he advances in political power, he continues to spout how much he hates the government while at the same time striving for more government power. In Idaho, he personally would like the powers granted to the Office of Governor. Raul Labrador appears at the same time power seeking and hating of the government that provides him with power. This is beyond confusing and makes me have significant distrust of Rep. Labrador.
Labrador and I could not disagree more on the proper role of government. He wants the power in his own hands, and I want the power in the hands of my community. I think government should be about community needs and not about partisan positions and soundbites. I believe the time of citizens being so disconnected and alienated by their government needs to end. I witness daily how my community is fed up with politicians saying how bad government is and then asking for our vote in order to join that same big bad government. We need leaders who are members of our community, who see the role of government in our community, and who want to make the government responsive and accountable to us as constituents.
Coeur d’Alene is an amazing community. Idaho as a state is an incredible community. What if our government was truly a reflection of that same community?