As you might have guessed, I am somewhat of a political junkie. You don’t hold a position like mine at the NBA without some knowledge, passion, and intrigue for the political process. Heck, I even have a piece of paper hanging in my office from Fort Hays State University conferring a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science (not sure that proves much).
Unfortunately, like most of you, I have become increasingly frustrated by the negative and confrontational political environment in our country. More specifically, I believe the political process, especially at the national level, has become more about winning and losing than doing the right thing for our citizens and our country. My father had a favorite saying: “You should always do the right thing and you should always do things right.” Imagine if this was the goal of every elected official!
Following are three definitions of “politics” as offered by the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary:
These definitions, ironically, seem to be based upon a continuum of increasing control, as one moves from definition A to definition C.
Our most basic guiding principle of politics and government consists of how we make public policy and how government can work more efficiently and effectively for the citizenry. This definition is best witnessed in our local city councils, village boards, and school boards. I have a great deal of admiration for those individuals who are willing to campaign for local office and work hard to make their community or region a better place for the next generation.
Definition B references the need to guide or influence government. This definition is how many in my generation learned to define politics at an early age. Activities within the Nebraska Legislature, for the most part, seem to abide by this general definition or philosophy. While more common now than 20 years ago, partisan politics don’t often rear their ugly head in Nebraska’s top legislative body. Over the years, our government affairs team at the NBA has encouraged and worked with representatives from both sides of the political spectrum to develop policy options that positively impact Nebraska.
Clearly, Definition C more closely resembles the current political climate in Washington, D.C.—the focus being on winning and controlling. There is not much room in this definition for compromise, collaboration, and common sense. I watched with great interest several weeks ago as Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, rolled out a bank regulatory relief proposal at the federal level. Prior to the bill even being formally introduced, elected officials including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began tweeting and speaking publicly about her opposition to Congressman Hensarling’s proposal.
Ironically, several of the important policy provisions that Sen. Warren often cites were included within Rep. Hensarling’s proposal. Since when is it the right thing to actively oppose a proposal before you know or understand it? Obviously, this discussion and many related bank regulatory discussions are much more about winning and control than they are about what is good for America, Americans, or the U.S. banking sector.
First and foremost, as we begin the sprint toward the November general election, I encourage you to exercise your constitutional right to vote. Secondly, I would encourage you to get to know the candidates and their respective positions on issues important to the future of our state and nation. Third, talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to vote. Also, don’t be shy about sharing your understanding of particular candidates and their respective policy statements. Finally, turn off the unending 24-hour media circus and social media outlets that masquerade as unbiased news sources. Remember, Husker football will soon be upon us and we can focus our attention on other priorities, even if only for a short four quarters on Saturday!
Richard J. Baier
Proud husband, father of two, and the president/CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Avid about growing the Cornhusker State's banking industry.