“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone.”
These are the wise words of John Quincy Adams, one of our nation’s founding fathers. They are words that I’ve kept close to my heart since childhood. I understand that as a citizen of the gratest nation in the world, I have a responsibility to do my part to preserve our democracy by voting for principle.
And when no such option is present, I recognize my responsibility to stand for principle and offer my service.
I am running for legislature to give voice to those who are tired of dishonest politics. I stand for reality, and speak for those who know we can do better. I represent those who believe we can have health care and education for all and preserve the merits of the free market. I speak for those who believe in our divine responsibility as stewards of the earth to protect our land, air, and water. I stand for those who know that the only limitation on our achievements as a state is will.
As your candidate for state legislature, as your neighbor, I humbly beg you to turn away from media politics and let it go. Gather up the buzzwords and admonitions against the “other side” and throw them out. I dare you to invite an estranged loved one to dinner, do something you used to love to do together.
And when you’re reminded of each other’s humanity, I want you to go out and vote.
Vote for principle.
I have always been a highly driven person. From starting my first business at ten years old to earning my Public Health degree from a Big Ten university, I've never shied away from a fulfilling challenge.
Which is why those closest to me were shocked when I decided to have children in my twenties, right in the middle of building my careeer.
Just the other day, a new acquaintance asked, "If you could do all that, why would you stop to have kids?”
I smiled, first of all grateful that a man his age had evolved past the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. But his question also gave me a reason to return to the moment I decided not only to have children, but to become a mother.
My husband Mike and I were planning our wedding. I was in college and he was working his way up the ladder at a big publishing company. For Mike there was never any doubt that we’d become parents. But I’d seen too much of the underbelly of this world, and I was afraid of the consequences of bringing more children into it.
Over the course of a month I took time out each day to live out a life in another world. It was a quiet world, a sane world. I was totally free. I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted. I had nothing to think of but my own needs and ambition.
But in my meditation I aged. And the world stayed quiet. As time marched on across my being I had nothing to think of but my own needs and ambition.
I wanted to get the garden cleaned up before the snows came.
I wanted to get my short stories published in the Reader’s Digest.
I wanted to help my church and our sister parish in Guatemala switch to solar.
I wanted to enjoy dinner and fine wine with dear friends in quiet conversation.
I wanted to reach enlightenment and slip seamlessly into nonphysicality.
It was meaningful, fulfilling. But for me – to my tremendous surprise – it was too quiet.
I received a great gift in those meditations, however. One evening, as I searched for the right road, I aged. And the calm and quiet existence I’d so diligently cobbled together for myself from various acknowledgements and achievements was tattered like cotton candy in the carnival breeze by impossibly giant, joyful shrieks of “Grandma!”
All of the calm and perspective I’d gathered was called upon in abundance as energetic little monsters with big eyes and chipmunk cheeks invaded every corner of my world. They created and destroyed – drawing hearts and their favorite cartoon characters on the kitchen table with my expensive red lipstick; taking up fallen wooden swords to knock the heads off of roses and hydrangeas in my garden.
My daughter slept heavily in my bed while my son soaked his feet and read my husband’s poetry in the yard. My children came for the quiet, and their children picked up the bill with laughter and tears and fighting and hugs.
When they left they looked recharged and sorry to go. I was exhausted. Mike and I were quiet. We took up our wine glasses and books and returned to our couch in the sunroom. We cuddled, clinging to the madness but grateful for the quiet.
I awoke from that meditation understanding what I was really choosing between. We were pregnant with our firstborn three months later.
Did I make the right choice? I don’t know. What if things don’t turn out that way? What if something doesn’t work out?
Anything could happen.
Yes, it could. I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know this: I have to contribute to creating a world wherein my vision could exist. I must ensure that families have access to the high quality healthcare they need to keep themselves and their children well. I must work to take away the burdens of basic survival, so that people are able to step away and enjoy the greater things in life. I must work to ensure that elders can retire in dignity with enough life left in them to create and enjoy what they create for themselves.
And so I am here, a mother and a candidate for the state legislature, trying to make the right choices.
If you read my post in the Custer County Chronicle last weekend, you know I take a somewhat solemn approach to Independence Day. In the midst of all the celebration, I make sure to take time out with my family for contemplation. In that time, we read the Declaration of Independence together, and talk about our responsibility to protect our democracy through action.
I received many comments after that post in the paper. Some people think it sounds boring, that my kids might want to do other things instead. But I think there is nothing more fulfilling than taking time in the words of our forefathers. And there's nothing more important than protecting our children from bogus claims about what the Declaration and the Constitution say than teaching them ourselves.
As a child I lived in destitution. My parents, bless them, were incapable. My surroundings were dangerous; violence and drugs were constant. Back then I was miserable. But I remember the presidient - President Clinton - swearing with the most sincere conviction that if we all just worked hard, got an education, and followed a dream we'd be able to overcome anything. I imagined he was speaking directly to me.
I believed him with all my heart.
I believed that the Constitution laid a path to victory for every able American citizen. And that those of us who succeeded would be rewarded for helping and caring for the others. And despite everything - despite my dad's illness, despite being responsible for caring for my younger siblings, despite having to drop out of high school to find work to support my family - I never stopped believing.
Back then, it was true. But as I look around I see that I was one of the few to make it through the economic gate before it fell, cutting off the impoverished from a path to the middle class. Now, you can only get through the gate going one way: down.
Independence Day is a time of rememberance for me. It's a time to reflect on the vision of our forefathers. Though they couldn't live up to the ideal of Liberty, Justice, and Freedom for all, they expected us to supercede them. Anyone who has ever read the Declaration of Independence knows that.
That's why I take the time to read the Declaration to my children. Where we are today is but a single step on the road toward the great ideal, the United States of America envisioned by our forefathers. And if we embrace those ideals, if we stand up to the challenges put forth by those who wish to destroy those ideas for their profit - the big bank owners, board members at massive international corporations, insurance company holders, big oil profiteers - we can't help but reach that ideal.
Our responsibility to charge forth toward the Great Amerian Ideal is inherent in our citizenship. Acceptance of that responsibility is patriotism. We must teach our children young.
The nation is facing a leadership crisis. I could offer up a long dissertation of evidence, but something tells me you’re already nodding your head.
Here in South Dakota, things aren’t looking any better. Our state legislature has been enmeshed in one scandal after another. Our farmers are being ignored. Our small businesses can’t get the labor they need to cater to the tourism they depend on. Our world-renown landscape is being assaulted by industrial mining against our will.
Meanwhile, our legislators spend their time debating who gets to use the bathroom.
And we let them. We let them because many of us have not been educated on the appropriate role of government in the United States. And few of the rest of us know how to vocalize what we know to be true.
Our legislators—and the often out-of-state corporate lobbyists who buy them—count on that fact to run amok of their responsibilities.
If we are going to ensure the dignity of our elders, support healthy families, or leave anything of beauty or value to our children, we must retake control of our government. The first step to that end is understanding the reasonable scope of government power and enforcing that definition en masse.
We all have needs. Conveniently, we all have many of the same needs. We pay taxes to ensure that those common needs are met. That’s called the commonwealth.
The appropriate role of government is to ensure the equitable distribution of the commonwealth. Which is a fancy way of saying that the money we fork over in taxes is not to be tithed into the pockets of legislators and lobbyists. We pay taxes to ensure universal access to articles of basic, universal need: education, roads and transportation, community engagement, housing and yes, healthcare.
Marginalization is an ugly spot on American history. The nation was founded by male European Protestants, and every single group of people even marginally outside that demographic has had to fight for their rights and recognition as citizens. Women, various ethnic and religious groups, people with disabilities, even children—all of these groups have been targeted for socialized abuse at some point.
Government’s role in issues of age, ethnic, cultural, gender/sex, religious, or other genetic or lifestyle differences is to recognize and protect the group until they individualistically integrate into the community. They're there to make sure we all play nicely together. Legislators must never mandate or accept any form of terror against any socially recognizable group.
That means no bathroom bills.
The same goes for restricted assets, things like public lands, water, etc. Government’s role is not to decide when it’s ok to strip mine a state park or dump uranium refuse in the local aquifer. It’s to make sure those things don’t happen--period.
Representation Vs. Authority
Authority is a privilege relinquished to protective bodies trusted by the populace to enforce laws. Election to office does not grant legislators authority over their constituents. Yes, we send our legislators to the capital to write laws. However, we do not expect them to decide what to legislate.
That is our job.
Government’s role is to hear our grievances and, if the grievance is collective or undermines a group’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the government’s job is to devise a solution for the community to implement. That is representation.
What Legislators Need to Ask Themselves
In a perfect world all citizens wold recognize their power and responsibility to influence elected officials. In many cases, however, citizens take their cues from government action instead. For that reson, it's important for legislators to ask themselves a few things before publicizing their stance on an issue.
1. Does the commonwealth serve a common need? If not, stop right there. The commonwealth should not be distributed for solely private or corporate benefit.
2. Does the issue I’m considering legitimately affect a majority or endanger a minority? If so, there is a problem that needs to be solved. (Note: Just to be clear, “we don’t like them” is not an issue worthy of legislation; however, “they’re trying to kill us" requires intervention.)
3. Does the solution I’m considering endanger the commonwealth, community, or a marginalized group? If so, they’re doing it wrong. Time to come up with another solution.
Holding government officials to this standard of action is vital to the wellbeing of our democracy. This standard becomes much easier to enforce when we enlist officials who understand and value these limitations to begin with.
What do you think government's role should be in our state? Comment below and share this article with your friends and family.
Like other candidates, I've received multiple letters from gun lobbies demanding that I pledge to support their legislation "or else." In the wake of yet another school shooting, I want to take a minute to acknowledge three important things about guns to help you understand why I will not mindlessly kiss the ring and relinquish my freedom as a legislator for lobbyist support, particularly on the subject of guns.
1. In rural South Dakota, guns are a part of our lives. From hunting to farming to camping, we rely on hand guns and rifles for everything from feeding to protecting our families. Whatever solution we decide upon to stem the tide of gun violence, it cannot involve making it more difficult for responsible adults to obtain the classes of guns we use as tools.
2. We live in a world apart, but we are not immune to the wave of violence sweeping the nation. We cannot ignore the growing trend of mass murders. Instead, we should be grateful an extreme tragedy hasn't struck and work to make sure it doesn't.
3. Gun control is neither the beginning nor end of the list of changes that must be made to protect our communities from gun violence. But it must be part of the discussion. If we're serious about protecting our right to bear arms and keeping our children safe, we must avoid knee-jerk reactions on either end of the spectrum.
Gun violence is a growing public health crisis, and it deserves to be managed by legislative professionals with a background and passion for public health.
We can't afford to keep allowing professional politicians to secure their career by selling decisions on issue like this to lobbyists.
Whitney Raver is running for South Dakota State Legislature out of District 30. On paper, District 30 is the "reddest" in the state. But Whitney knows that Progressive roots run deep in her community. She is committed to uniting her community around common causes such as protecting the water, workers, and future generations from encroaching antisocial corporate interest.