Yesterday I had my first phone conversation with a constituent in my new role as the Democratic candidate for Oregon’s House District 18. It was a most excellent experience.
I was speaking with a teacher who works in the Silver Falls School District. (Yes, the first constituent I spoke to is a teacher.) They very kindly answered some of my questions, and offered some suggestions.
The most interesting part of the conversation happened toward the end, when they asked me a question to the effect of, “How are you going to make change happen, in such a divisive political environment?”
And I said something like, “That’s a really good question, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I have my ideals, but I also recognize that other people have their own perspectives; and I’m hoping that by listening and having empathy, we can make what compromises need to be made, in order to get things done.”
My problem here, is that I had actually been thinking about how to win the election by building a voting coalition between the far-left activists, who bring the passion, and the more moderate and unaffiliated voters, who have the weight of mathematical numbers on their side. But the question was about how I would get things done once in office. The teacher’s reply pointed out this flaw.
They stated quite bluntly:
“Democrats need to strengthen their message and toughen up: seek the compromise, but stay true to their values.”
(That is a direct quote, which I quickly wrote down in the moment.)
The teacher went on to explain that Republicans have been extremely consistent in stating their values: and Republicans have been staying true to those principles by refusing to compromise on anything, at all, for decades now.
I was floored. I had to admit that this was an excellent point!
“I have said something like that in the past,” I assured the teacher, “very angrily.” (Or words to that effect.) “But I’m trying to run a campaign based on empathy, because I want to build a coalition with political moderates, who are really turned off by all the anger in politics.”
“You don’t have to be angry,” the teacher schooled me, “to stay true to your principles.”
That last line might not be an exact direct quote; but it was well said. It was well-intentioned. And it was well-received.
I’m going to remember this conversation, and take these words to heart.
“You don’t have to be angry, to stay true to your principles.”
Thank you, local teacher. Whether or not you ever see this post, I’m deeply grateful for your advice.
Wishing all of you all the best.