A working democracy requires change, communicators | NevadaAppeal.com

A working democracy requires change, communicators

by Dan Mooney

One of the hallmarks of American democracy is its ability to manage power better than other forms of government. Competent power management recognizes that the concentration of power in one institution over an extended period of time is an omen of disaster.

Three of the five members of the Carson City Board of Supervisors have served for many years. While this is not all bad, there is a majority block on the board that votes rather consistently together, not always for the good of the community. Thus, the current board now represents an ominous power block that will become even stronger should changes not be made.

If this unhealthy accumulation of like-thinking power should continue, we risk allowing community values and beliefs to be overwhelmed with impunity and without the accountability that the use of power should engender, yet with enough power does not. Taxation to support the construction of the V&T Railroad and the recent approval of the southside subdivision against the Planning Commission’s recommendation and over the objections of those who live in the area are just two examples that come to mind. Now is the time for Carson City to diversify the power relationships on the Board of Supervisors.

On the other hand, there are times when change is not needed because a change in leadership would not be necessary to diffuse an unhealthy power block and, thus, would serve no good purpose. When we discuss leadership, the authentic topic is that we give leaders power to “change the reality of the moment” to further our benefit. The reality of this moment is such that Americans are politically angry. Some are so hurt that they have disenfranchised themselves from the political process. We are a polarized nation with equal power on both sides of a great political chasm. Neither side has sufficient power to move forward on the most important issues even with a reasonable agenda. We have not given them power to “change the reality of our time.”

Perceptions of powerlessness forms the source of debilitating anger and vitriol that stifles communication between politicians. These feelings of hurt and anger prevent politicians from reaching out and crossing the political chasm to negotiate win-win solutions. As a result, most Americans and Nevadans have taken a hard, unwavering stand on many of the most important issues. For many, meaningful communication is almost impossible.

Unfortunately, in the haze of emotion, few legislators have the grit to hobble their negative feelings and reach out to perform the hard work of problem-solving between angry opponents. Such grit may be above and beyond that which under normal circumstances would be preferable and should be expected, but not necessary for only average, even acceptable, legislative performance. Boldly approaching and communicating with a seemingly entrenched opposition requires an enlightened attitude toward the other side as well as very special and highly developed people and communication skills.

In past elections, many of us voted for Democratic Sen. Harry Reid because of his power to help prevent the high-level nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain. We did not blindly follow a party line when it veered away from our core values and when the greater good could be served.

We are at that time and place again, but now at the state Assembly level. We need to transcend our thinking to a place above the chasm of party politics by weighing the difference between the extreme disadvantages of polarization and constant conflict to consider genuine rapprochement and bridging the gap between two extremes. The candidate we select to represent us in the state assembly must have the ability to step across the aisle and contribute to a greater virtue by causing win-win solutions and compromise.

This means that our assemblyperson must have highly developed people and communication skills and a proven ability to work with members of both political parties. We want an assemblyperson who will represent our interests here in Carson City, someone who is not an ideologue who follows an unswerving vision that will only widen the gulf and increase the vitriol between the right and the left.

We need an assemblyperson who can help change the highly discordant reality of our time and narrow the chasm that divides us all, not just the politicians.

• Dan Mooney of Carson City is a frequent contributor to the Nevada Appeal Opinion page.