Forward thinking: The thrill of victory…the agony of defeat

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Loren Simmonds

The primary elections for 2019 are history. . .

For some candidates, their hopes were dashed. Dreams turned into nightmares all too soon. For others, at least two in each race, they were given continued hope through the general election on Nov. 6.

As one who has gone through numerous campaigns over my political career, I can vouch for the fact that losing an election is neither fun nor easy to take. None of us relish being told – “No, not you!”

For those who ran and lost, thank you for putting your toe into the water. In fact, I would encourage those who were eliminated to chalk it up as an important learning experience and start making plans to run again in two years. Shake off the dust. Evaluate what you did well and not so well and start drawing up the game plan now.

For those who are in upcoming general elections, I have a different message. Even if you aren’t a candidate, I would you encourage to challenge the candidates to take the “high road” in their campaigns. Allow me to explain myself.

You might describe me as a vagabond. . .

Over the years, I have lived in four different states, eight different cities and called 21 different houses home. In each community, I found a variety of community service organizations. They were all committed to doing well in one form or another — both locally and abroad.

One in particular caught my attention from the outset – Rotary International. I was impressed by their so-called 4-Way Test. Even if you are not a Rotarian, my guess is that you have read or heard it at least once over the years. It reads as follows:

“Of all the things we say or do: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

I bring this to your attention because after considerable reflection, I have concluded that the 4-Way Test would be an excellent guide line for the upcoming general election — especially in Lynnwood.

What follows are several ideas for a better campaign arranged around the 4-Way Test. So, “take a deep seat and a tight wrap”as they say in the panhandle of Texas and hear me out.

Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? 

In other words, keep the candidates on the high road.

I am confident in saying that most of us have a strong dislike for dirty campaigns. Do you recall those smarmy radio and TV ads that attack not just the candidate but the whole system of self-government?

Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of candidates or campaign managers who believe it’s what you have to do to win an election today. There is almost no incentive to stay on the high road. Just win, baby win.

And then there are those who seem to delight in destroying the campaign signs of those candidates they oppose with no regard to the time, cost or feelings of those particular candidates.

Keep the candidates on point.

Campaigns should be about the issues even in smaller communities like Lynnwood. Candidates should focus on those issues/concerns that the broader community is most concerned about. Candidates would do well to focus on the top three to five. The voters have every right to know what a candidate believes to be the major issues and his/her proposed solution(s).

Keep the candidates focused on solutions.

Not only should the candidates focus on big issues/concerns. The voters deserve to know how the candidates would define and prioritize the big issues . . . offer their proposed solutions . . . and identify how he/she would go about achieving the desired solution.

Will it build good will and better friendships?

Provide opportunities for the candidates to think out loud.

A new kind of campaign forum for discussing issues is long past due. We would be well served to make more use of facilitated discussions at a “round table” that includes both concerned citizens and candidates. Standing behind some stilted podium and having an anchor person offering up questions is sterile and too predictable.

Another option might be to stage a series of “conversations with the candidates” at various locations around town — like a coffee shop or café. Today’s campaigns have too often degenerated into shouting matches where no one is listening.  Dare I suggest that candidates would be well served to be slow to speak, quick to listen and careful not to get angry.

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”

The past is past. What has been done has been done. A wholesale makeover of past decisions is highly unlikely – at best we might discover a few helpful adjustments.  We can, however, focus on the future and attempt to learn from the past – especially when it is increasingly evident that past adopted policies were not in the long-term interest of the community as a whole.

There is wisdom and maturity in acknowledging when something is not working. How often have we heard or used the axiom. . . “why do you keep doing the same thing, the same way and expect a different result?”

Bottom line: Campaigns are an important part of our democratic-republic at every level of government.  What I have proposed will require/need a considerable amount of work however, those are the most worthwhile things do. It will require an investment of time, money, and some clear thinking by all of us. Some of you may even need to start thinking now about running for city council or mayor two years from now.

The above falls under the heading of “Government of the People, By the People and For the People.”

In the final analysis, doing something certainly beats standing on the sidelines, wringing our hands and complaining about the “idiots” and the “do gooders” in City Hall.

I close with one simple question – “Are you in?”

I hope for Lynnwood’s sake you are, because 20% of registered voters turning out to vote does not bode well for our community’s future.

Until next time . . .

— By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.