America’s system of checks and balances requires public servants of conscience and wisdom, not allegiance to partisanship and division. We must insist on high standards of conduct and judgment in our politicians—or fire them and hire those willing to listen and lead. Accountability and ethics in our government are founding principles and essential to a working democracy. Together with the most important dimensions of leadership—experience, trust, judgment, honesty, accountability, transparency, and empathy—they are the standards that we must insist on if we are to continue to lead as a great and wise country.
The magnitude of the public health and economic crises we are facing are a direct result of the lack of accountability and ethics in the current Administration, along with public servants who have forgotten that their job is to put people first — not their party. None of us want to be where we are. What this virus has shown is that if we do not have serious, experienced leaders in government, people can die. Put simply, bad policy and incompetence in government gets people killed.
When elected officials speak the language of partisanship and division, their rhetoric forms the landscape of our public discourse, lowering the bar for all of us. Politicians should always remember that they work for us, for the common good—and that public service is an honor and not a platform for self-absorption, pettiness, or division. Governing is about helping people, about finding the public good. How you get there is a debate, but it should be a debate of ideas, not recriminations, conducted in good faith.
We need to restore the Voting Rights Act, make Election Day a national holiday, and ensure voter registration for U.S. citizens of voting age. Restoring voting rights to Americans who have paid their legal debt to society would allow millions a voice in our society.
One of the biggest challenges we face as a nation is one we have brought on ourselves: division within. And that starts at the top. Healthy debate between a host of ideas is how we find solutions that work for all of us. That means Republicans, Democrats, unaffiliated voters, indeed everyone, all working together to find a way forward. It does not mean one-party rule or demonizing those with different viewpoints. Balanced political dialogue is in everyone’s best interest and would help make life better for all Americans.
When we are divided at home, we give an advantage to those around the world who might be working against us. That is on us. It serves no purpose to point fingers at China or Russia or whoever else might not have our best interests at heart if we are tearing ourselves apart at home. We need leadership at home if we want to return to leadership abroad. We cannot focus on international issues of critical importance if we spend our time tearing each other down within our own country. We need to remember that being an American means valuing the amazing diversity of ideas that is our birthright in a country of 330+ million people.
We need science-based decisions and people-first ethics rather than the lies, partisanship, and cronyism of Trump and his allies. We need a worldview that allows us to find value in others and take good ideas and examples where we find them. For example, Germany and New Zealand have strong leaders, women, who faced pandemic facts up front and then mobilized their nations. These leaders did not politicize face coverings. They rallied their people in solidarity. They made crucial policy decisions based on science with input from trusted medical experts. They led. It does not make us as a country less extraordinary to learn from their examples.
Something we all should miss deeply is an America, while far from perfect, that led by example. This election year we must thoughtfully consider our country’s role in the international community and how much damage has been done to our global standing and leadership since Donald Trump’s inauguration. We aspire to be a country of bridges, not walls. A country of dreams, not nightmares. A country where we welcome the differences in others, rather than being told from the Oval Office that we should live in fear. Americans want their leaders to put country over party, to put the nation over narrow interests, and to champion unity—and lead us away from divisiveness.
At the end of the day what matters is, do we have the right people in place to help us all move forward together? Are we talking to each other about how we get there? More importantly, are we listening to each other?
Read more about Kael Weston’s issue and policy priorities.