Campaign Courtship. Time to Dance. Published MHA Times 7.29.14

It is that time again. Election season. Campaigning, the typical courtship of those who want to be elected leaders and those who will cast a vote in exchange for leadership; sometimes a change in leadership and sometimes a vote to maintain leadership. As someone who has worked on local, statewide and nationwide voter courtship before, I can tell you it’s a very personal investment of time, talent and money; an investment that shouldn’t be blind. As with any courtship you want to get to know the candidates. Find out what you can. Do they reflect the values of your idea of a leader? Do you trust them? Are they incumbents with a record that shows that we, the people are a priority? Are they candidates making promises? Do they have a plan that will work? Does the candidate work well with others? After all, this is a democracy, our elected leaders have to work with others. Are the candidates capable? Are we voters, capable?

Just as in any other courtship, some candidates just want to feed you and give you shiny objects. Don’t get me wrong, feeding me is good, so is the occasional shiny object; that is kind of expected in NDN country. However let’s not get distracted to the point that we fail to see the candidate for who they are. You know how we get when we find out we elected someone we didn’t really know how they stood on the issues we care about. Some of you get pretty crabby when a courtship goes sour. We become like scorned companions, mistrustful and blaming until the next election cycle at which point we get vengeful and point fingers, blaming anyone who dares step up to civic responsibility for our unhappiness. Ok, maybe I’m going overboard – but my point is how about we NOT do that this year. Don’t settle for a candidate who gives you indigestion; make sure your hearts are compatible. We’re looking to elect leaders so that we can ensure a road to benefit the public good.

A functioning democracy is critical to the goals and civic mission of governance. If we are to have a governance structure we believe in and trust, we need to be involved. Too long have we been left out of the political process and now that American Indians are proving to be the deciding win factor for candidates, we need to establish long-term political participation in tribal, local, state and federal elections. Democracy is something we can’t take for granted. Remember when we were left out of the process? Didn’t pan out the greatest for us historically. Good governance thrives in an environment where people are participating in and trusting the process. We have a long way to go before we get there, so let the courtship continue. It’s time we all get on the dance floor, engage and vote.

Voting matters. Your vote matters; both to the health of our sovereign nation’s governance system, and to the people who participate in our system. Voting carries a civic benefit to those who participate. Studies have shown that typical voters are invested in their communities, concerned with their peers, are more informed about issues and processes, and have a greater sense of their ability to impact the world around them. Whether or not you cast a vote, you are participating in this system. Not voting is a form of participation in a way that benefits someone or some system, including those you disagree vehemently with. We, as citizens of this nation, should vote. No one should be left off the dance floor.

In this great courtship, the currency is our vote. Either you give it up for the values and work for what you believe in, or you throw it aside to the status quo. What you do is your choice. I’m here to tell you, your vote will matter. As election season heats up, I’ll be here to bring you more information on the process and on the candidates. I’m looking forward to the next couple of months. MHA Nation, it’s time. Let’s dance.

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