In some ways, Election Day 2018 was a day of paradoxes for me. I attended three separate meetings with city and county officials before coming home to watch the state and national election returns. The political overtones of both could not have been more different.
The nation had been rushing towards Election Day at an increasingly frantic pace. Everywhere you turn citizens have been bombarded with advertising of every form, encouraging and imploring you for your vote. You could not answer your phone or check your email without a political appeal. In fact, one of the few blessings of the aftermath of Hurricane Michael is that my cable is still out, sparing me the endless television ads by candidates of both parties.
I found it increasingly frustrating to watch the negativity of the campaigning. I have been around politics long enough to know that the reason for so many negative ads is simple. They work. However, I always prefer to vote for someone rather than against someone. Tell me why I should vote for you, not why I should vote against them.
At the end of the day, it appears there was no big wave. The Democrats took the House of Representatives but the Senate easily stayed in Republican hands. We will have a split Congress for at least the next two years. The question of the day is how President Trump will deal with this new alignment in Congress.
Yet, despite my frustration on so many levels with the state of our national leadership, I continue to be struck by how our local leaders are working together. It gives me hope for the future of politics when I see the way Donalsonville, Iron City, and Seminole County leaders are working together even as state and national political discourse seems to swirl all around us.
Hurricane Michael has united our local leadership in a way that probably could not have happened any other way. Joint meetings have caused us to see each other in action, gaining respect for each other’s talents and appreciation for each other’s challenges.
I will admit it is easier to work together when your back is against the wall. Impassable roads, no electricity, no water, no communication easily unites you in a common cause. It is only when things slow down that you realize what is really happening. Leaders are looking out for their constituents without regard to party, place or power. It is a raw and unvarnished look at the way a democracy should work in its purest form.
Nevertheless, it is an instructive lesson for those who have begun to lose confidence in the way we govern as a nation. We elect people to lead us and expect them to work together for the common good. It has not been that way in Washington for a long time, as partisan politics has poisoned the system and turned us against each other.
So as I prepare to put this Election Day to rest, I will choose to remember those other elected officials in our city and county who have risen to the challenge, put aside differences, and worked together for the betterment of our citizens.
Our nation may be divided more than ever and the elections promise nothing but more of the same. However, for our small part of the world, we stand united. It makes me feel good. It makes me proud to watch you. It is an honor to serve with you. All of you. Well done.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org