If the health of our democracy is measured in by how elected officials treat their constituents, we should all be deeply troubled by the town hall held in Traverse City Central High School this week. As a candidate for Michigan’s 1st congressional district, I won't attempt to characterize the event itself. Those who were there have strong opinions already. Instead, I want to focus on what I believe is the only path forward from here: electing leaders who truly want to serve all people.
We deserve a committed, respectful dialogue. We need representatives who do more than just pander to their political party or bend to special interests. We need bridge builders. This means cultivating relationships. It means navigating tough conversations without being patronizing, impatient or dismissive. And at the most basic level, it means showing up, and showing up often.
Any politician who hosts a community engagement event where the majority of people in attendance leave feeling frustrated and disheartened is not doing their job well. We need representatives who are willing to be truly present in the communities they serve-- not separated by orchestra pits and tables on stages. Actively listening and learning from constituents needs to be a baseline expectation. So too does coming prepared to talk about key issues and policy concerns.
The people we send to Congress must model the civil discourse, compassion, and integrity we want to embody as a nation. That’s why I am running to serve Michigan’s 1st district. As a career Marine officer, I know that leadership is about serving those you lead, and it starts by treating each one with dignity.
Everyone should expect a representative to stand their ground when it comes to their core values, but I also promise to work tirelessly to find common ground on the things that matter to us all. Every constituent, regardless of who they voted for, deserves to be heard. And that’s what I pledge to do if I’m elected to represent Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula-- this beautiful place we are so fortunate to call home.
While there will always be disagreement over how we take on challenging issues, the fact remains that a dysfunctional town hall is a consequence of failed leadership. And the simple truth is this: we deserve more. More listening. More accountability. More respect. We can-- and must-- start building a movement to turn our representatives focus back toward the people they've been elected to represent, today.
* The GT Dems welcome op-eds from Democratic candidates running in the 1st District for publication on this blog space.