Being nonpartisan after a partisan election
By Jim Tolbert, Conservative Outreach Director
The days just after an election feel like the end of a college football game and the end of a long season. The fans leave the stadium to go home. Time to put away my green and white Spartan cup and flag. The teams take a short breath and immediately begin preparation for the next season. 2020 is not far away. Another bowl game. Another game where pundits will declare that we are in the most important election in American history (again). Another event where people will root for their team and work to help that team win. And I’ll be there supporting a suite of candidates.
One of my daughters went to the University of Michigan, and my wife graduated from Ohio State University. And I still root for the Spartans of Michigan State on any given Saturday, where I attended and where my dad worked. This has nothing to do with the strength of my bond with my family. Though, I probably won’t linger for very long on the score of the Ohio State vs. Michigan State football game this weekend, whether the Spartans win or lose. It’s just not how members of a family care for each other.
Elections are partisan. In individual elections, one party wins, the other loses. As we divide into groups for these partisan battles, we often lose track of the needs and the values of the other side. We want our side to win.
CCL is nonpartisan—it’s one of our core values. Our focus on respectful dialogues with Democrats and Republicans drew me in to CCL five years ago. Our collective work is the opposite of partisan posturing. We build relationships between Republicans, Democrats, and Independents; between conservatives, liberals, progressives and libertarians. We are less concerned with “my side” than with a solution to a challenge we face together: climate change.
Never confuse our nonpartisan core value with how each of us lives our lives. CCL is filled with individuals that feel responsible to be active in this world. And many CCL members actively support Democrats and Republicans. Of course we do.
During this election cycle, as an individual, I supported Republican members of Congress who took a stand on climate and also share my values. As an individual, I financially supported representatives like Mia Love, Steve Knight, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Carlos Curbelo. One of them, Rep. Fitzpatrick, made it through the night with their job. To be honest, I am left with a strong bitter taste in my mouth for those environmental folks that opposed Congressman Curbelo. In my gut, I have very little desire to work with them.
And then, I refocus on our challenge and on CCL’s core values. I turn my attention away from my emotional response and onto how we create real change with conversations that bridge these emotional and partisan responses.
So, today the election is over. The stadium empties. There will be another season. 2020 is not far away. However you view the results of the 2018 election, whichever result had you cheering or yelling at the TV, today it’s time to continue our important work to make climate policy a bridge issue in the 116th Congress; to avoid the urge to allow climate to be one more wedge between the parties. Today, let’s refocus on our work to enact meaningful legislation to address climate change.
Jim Tolbert is the Conservative Outreach Director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby.