On the eve of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Sadly, more than 150 years later, we find our nation once again divided by political ideology.
As a Ferndale City Council member, I meet too many people who are angry and afraid. For many of us, the world has simply changed too much, too fast, outpacing our capacity to adapt. To deal with these feelings, we often seek out like-minded people to work and socialize with, inadvertently shutting out those with whom we disagree. For some, this refuge is found in political parties.
Recently, while speaking to a gentleman about my campaign for Ferndale mayor, he said I would be the first Democrat he had ever voted for. To which I replied, “I’m not a Democrat.” For the record, I’m not a Republican either. Or a Libertarian. Or a Green. I’m not a member of any political party, a holdover from my service in the military and at NASA.
Given that Ferndale mayor is a non-partisan position, I suppose his comment should have surprised me, but it didn’t. In my lifetime, I’ve watched America become an “us” and “them” society. Everyone knows “them” are trying to destroy America while “us” fight valiantly to protect our great nation from “them.” The sad result of this division is to find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of saying we love America, but not the Americans who disagree with us.
As this partisan divide continues to grow, solving our problems seems all but impossible. Our own state Legislature is mired in partisan quicksand, struggling to solve our most basic problems. As an elected official, though, I can tell you it’s difficult to find a solution when party politics automatically eliminate some remedies before the process even begins.
So what can we do? First, I believe we need to stop partisanship at the local level. A non-partisan position needs to be held by a non-partisan individual. Yes, it’s nice to turn to a political party to help fund your campaign and get out the vote, but at what price? Will you be able to say “no” to the people who financed your campaign? Perhaps, if “us” stop spending millions of dollars disparaging “them,” campaigns could once again be financed by small donations from your friends and neighbors.
Second, though we may disagree on possible solutions, I think we can agree on what some of our problems are. We know we need more family-wage jobs in Whatcom County. Globalization and automation have eliminated millions of jobs in America that will never return. Finding a job that pays enough to raise a family, buy a home, provide your kids educational opportunities, etc. can be difficult, if not impossible. We must compete with the rest of the world to ensure our residents have access to good jobs. Thus, I want to work with Whatcom County to create a regional marketing campaign to show new and existing businesses everything we have to offer them. If we don’t get in the game, we will be left behind.
I think we can also agree that we need to maintain our infrastructure: roads, bridges, buildings, pipelines, etc. “Take care of your stuff” is one of the first lessons our parents taught us. Yet every year we fight over whether to spend money to maintain our infrastructure, apparently believing roads and buildings are like cell phones, we’ll just buy a new one when the old one wears out.
As a non-partisan candidate for mayor of Ferndale, I promise you that if elected, I will work with anyone and everyone to make our city an even better place to live. I will work with staff, council and our residents to find the best possible solution for any problem we face, without any preconceived notions of what an acceptable solution might be. And I will also work with our county, state and federal elected officials, regardless of political affiliation, to ensure Ferndale gets our fair share of the taxes we pay.
Only by working together will we prosper and thrive in the 21st century – united we stand, divided we fall.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This is one of a series of commentaries from candidates in the Aug. 4 primary election. Cathy Watson is one of five challengers in the non-partisan election for a 4-year term as Ferndale mayor. Incumbant Mayor Gary Jensen is not seeking re-election in Ferndale. The two candidates who get the most votes Aug. 4 will advance to the Nov. 3 general election.