In the wake of last week’s election, Arizona’s Republicans and Democrats are left with a mixed bag of emotions. On the one hand, Democrats are thrilled with the reelection of President Barack Obama but dismayed with the loss of Senate candidate Rich Carmona and Sheriff’s candidate Paul Penzone. They are overjoyed they picked up seats in both chambers of the legislature but puzzled as to why they lost every seat on the Corporation Commission.
Republicans feel the reverse, with some so upset by President Obama’s reelection that they have signed a petition to secede from the union. And though the idea of secession is ridiculous at best, it highlights the feeling that we are living in a fractured country that is in serious need of repair.
We know where our differences lie. The billions of dollars spent on campaign attack ads made that clear. But what about our commonalities? What shared values do we have as Americans and as Arizonans?
Not that long ago, a think tank called the Center for the Future of Arizona put together a report called The Arizona We Want. The report identified eight goals important to Arizona’s citizens: quality jobs for all, 21st century careers, creating the “place to be” for talented young people, affordable healthcare, protection of Arizona’s natural environment, modern and effective transportation and infrastructure, empowered citizens, and a sense of connection to one another.
As with most public policy matters, the devil is in the details. But what if our state legislature made a concerted effort to focus their time on theses eight goals, above all else, particularly when considering our state budget? I expect we’d see a much different debate at the capitol.
And what if we, as citizens, insisted that our leaders embrace these goals above all else? We have a huge disconnect in this state between government action and citizen wishes. This was confirmed by the Center’s poll, which said 90% of Arizonans believe their elected officials do not represent their interests. That’s even worse than the rating we give Congress.
The good news in the report was that Arizonans rank high in their attachment to their community, but the bad news was that they rank low in their attachment to one another. And this, I believe, is the source of the divide between our state’s citizens and their elected officials.
The Center attributed our inability to connect with one another with our low rankings in areas of volunteerism, charitable giving and service in community organizations. That makes sense. We cannot unite with others when we fail to reach out and make an effort.
But the study also shows us that we have within our grasp a way to step up as citizens and join with our neighbors — be they Republican or Democrat or Independent – and put our imprint on government. This may be as easy as volunteering in our children’s classroom, making contributions to worthy charities or serving on a church committee. Influencing government happens when we meet with our elected officials, read our local paper, and register and vote in elections.
These are not unattainable goals, and if we learn to frame our debates around these goals, we can find ways to begin repairing our fractured state.
It’s easier to find common ground with individuals when we make an effort to know them. It’s easier to move forward when we use our shared values to bridge our divides instead of using our differences to further our rift.
In the days that follow, let’s hope this is the path our elected officials and our citizens will choose to go down. Let’s work toward perfecting our Union instead of upending it.
Azcvoices.com is a network of community bloggers created by The Arizona Republic, azcentral.com and 12 News to highlight diverse viewpoints. Members' opinions do not represent the views of Republic Media.
Bio: The story behind this blog begins in 2007 when, on an ordinary September morning, my world was unexpectedly smashed to pieces. A drugged-up gang banger with multiple arrests and outstanding warrants crossed my husband’s path. As my husband and his partner attempted to arrest him, he pulled a gun and shot my husband twice in the back of the head.
The murder of a Phoenix police officer is big news. Bigger still is the fact that this happened at the hands of a previously deported illegal immigrant in a border state rife with contentious immigration battles.
As I listened to the politicians and pundits spin my husband’s death to further their interests, my journalism background came into focus and I found myself doing my own research into the causes and possible solutions to our nation’s immigration problems. I also gained an awareness of what it was like to be on the opposite side of the lens. I had been a member of the media, and now my family was the subject of the story.
When I went public with my views on immigration, I was drawn even further into the political web of Arizona politics, and though I shied away for a time, I felt I could no longer be silent.
And so I created this blog, my editorial on the challenges facing our state and our nation. My expectation is that it will be used as a source of reasoned debate to elevate our discussions in a thoughtful and informed manner while seeking solutions to complex problems. I hope the differing opinions expressed by myself and others will both challenge and motivate individuals to work for the greater good.