Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"You Are More Than Just A Voter...."

Above: Former United States Representative Jolene Unsoeld jokes with congressional candidate Denny Heck at a private fundraiser for Heck in September.

“You Are More Than Just A Voter….”
By Janine Unsoeld

Ever energetic and always inspiring, former Washington State Congresswoman Jolene Unsoeld (D - 3rd Congressional District) addressed a private crowd at a recent fundraiser for Denny Heck who is running for the newly created 10th Congressional district.

In her words of support for Heck, she also presented a larger message about citizen participation and an informed democracy.
“What is needed now in our state, our nation, and this globe requires more than a skilled politician who gets the votes….It isn't sufficient to vote into office the right man or woman.  It requires an on-going partnership between the person we elect and us - there is no substitute! You are more than just a voter!
The tragedy of the Reagan legacy, through which we are still living, isn't just the beginning of the biggest debt in the history of the human species, it isn't just the crumbling bridges and highways, it isn't just the increasing global climate change, or even the millions of hungry, homeless children.

As tragic as are all of these, the real Reagan legacy is that he, through the American Legislative Exchange Council, rendered us incapable of addressing our problems.  He turned us against ourselves and made Americans hate their institutions of government.  

It has only been in very recent times that most of us have even heard of ALEC, although Reagan was a member and praised it, when the Council began their steady progress of creating a partnership to put the interests of big business above all else.  Under an umbrella that it took most of us a couple of decades to recognize, ALEC identified itself as a charitable education entity that had little responsibility to pay taxes or publicly identifying who was benefiting and for what.

Now, today, we find ourselves playing catch up with a monster that takes advantage of the view that most of us hold: to seek the best candidates, support them, vote for them, and then expect them to get busy and work for us while we sit on the sidelines and keep score.

If we are really to succeed with our goals for society, for the earth, for our children, and for our industries, we must bring ourselves into the process.

Roosevelt said, "You elected me to do these things. Now make me do them."

The grave shortcomings of state legislatures, of governors, of congress, and of a president as instruments of a responsive and honest government must be laid squarely at the door of us -  American citizens. 

There is an ancient farming proverb which expresses the view that land doesn't prosper under absentee ownership.  "The footprint of the owner is the best manure."

When members of congress come back to the district and hold town hall meetings or visit work sites, we must be there.  Believe me, those who would like to get rid of the member of congress will be there.  We, too, must be there as the lobbyists start bonding with the newly elected just by sharing and commiserating over the endless work load, a grueling schedule, and wrestling with unlimited data.

Ingrained in her memory, Unsoeld outlined her typical, hectic schedule for a west coast member of Congress.  And as Unsoeld often ends her speeches, she said, “There is no substitute for an informed and participating citizenry.” 

At this particular event, Unsoeld was honored for her service as Washington's congressional representative from 1989 – 1995, and for her 40 years of contributions to the South Sound community.

Heck noted that during her time as congresswoman, she had been called “The Conscience of Congress.”

“This woman defined open government,” recalling that when he won the 2009 James Madison award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government, Unsoeld had earned it the year before him.

Following her remarks, a beautiful glass plate created by local artist Kim Merriman was presented to Unsoeld.

For more information about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), go to www.ALECexposed.org, or  www.movetoamendolympia.org.  

For more information about ALICE, a progressive counterpoint to ALEC, go to www.ALICELaw.org.  

Above: Artist Kim Merriman presents Jolene Unsoeld with a piece she created especially for Unsoeld. The glass dish features a Northwest image including Mt. Rainier and water.