It may be well-known news at this point, but only one state in the union has a divided legislature. That means in forty-nine states one political party can dictate policy, funding, and programs. That is awful.
Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate many of the changes rendered by the newly progressive New York State Legislature. I was thrilled when the struggle to win driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants passed, as well as the farm labor bill. Aggressive evironmental policies that will put the state ahead of the federal government in trying to manage climate change is huge, as are more enlightened sexual harassment laws. But all of that would be better if it could somehow have incorporated a more bi-partisan consensus even if the end result had not been as grand.
Here is the thing about democracy: it doesn’t work if it is a zero-sum game of “I win/You lose.” Sure, decisions get made and steps get taken with single party domination, and it is much better than being frozen by stalemate. But decisions and actions derived from a thin majority rarely bloom with fullness, and often get torn up by the roots the next time the power differential is reversed.
Democracies that rest upon a 51-49% balance of power, or even 48-52%, and charge ahead without concern or attention to the minority, are doomed to repeated failures. A sense of community is not created or nurtured by winning but rather, by gathering a broad consensus that builds upon people of different beliefs and values committed to working together. That means feeling safe working with those who differ from us. So, it is incumbent upon those in power to demonstrate they are safe partners who may not agree with the opposition but who will be honorable and generous. It then requires the minority to take risks to be vulnerable, and not allow perfection to be the enemy of the good, i.e., compromise.
In today’s hyper-partisan environment, this likely sounds like the nattering of an old liberal who doesn’t know what time it is and is asleep at the wheel instead of “woke.” Perhaps, but win-lose politics is a dangerous course to nurture because the power differential always favors the moneyed classes and military-technology complex. A win-lose competition, when it comes to creating and sustaining true community, is not a benefit to progressive hopes.
For example, it would benefit Geneva greatly if the City Council instituted a practice of seeking consensus across party lines instead of the current practice of trying to inflict defeat on the opposition. That would require trust born of people who demonstrate good will and a generosity of spirit, which does not seem to be fully present at the moment. The partisans who make up the leadership of both parties would also need to be on board, and so agitate for party candidates and representatives to work toward consensus instead of winning at all costs. At present there does not appear to be a culture of consensus brewing in Geneva, and more likely just the opposite.
I do not have insider access to party leaders, nor any kind of influence on active candidates. Maybe you do. If so, I hope you will encourage them to build and participate in a culture of civil discourse and consensus-building.