In politics, and life, pendulums swing. Few things remain the same for very long.
I’ve spent a lot of time reacting to elections. My professional life, which demands looking out for what’s best for conservation, is all about navigating the opportunity (or wreckage) a pendulum swing produces. Two years ago was a lot more than just a work event. The post-election time was a deeply emotional for many of us, full of analysis to be sure, but also actual grief. As I met with ICL supporters, I frequently found myself being the first person they’d actually talked to who was describing a path to get up and move forward.
That’s our job. Get up and move forward. Find the opportunities. Prepare for the setbacks. Get back in the game. Keep moving forward because, as Martin Luther King said, the arc of history bends towards justice. But only if we get up and keep moving.
There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis of the election. Some good people won hard races and some good people lost. Some races are still too close to call.
On a national level, most certainly, some balance was restored. While I had little doubt where the night was headed because of history, what I knew about the actual races, and a fierce optimism about our country, after 2016 I wasn’t going to predict anything. I watched returns at home, privately, with screens open, radio on and scribbling notes. I was as nervous as anyone.
In Idaho, there were few surprises. Some may challenge my view about pendulum swings, but I’m confident we did see change, and in that change there is a measure of opportunity. Our new governor is not a change agent, but this former High Country News board member is someone I know reasonably well and, most of all, I know he’s not the same man he is replacing. The same could be said for the new U.S. Congressman from the 1st District. A champion? Of course not. Someone who will listen? Yes, at least some, and a lot more so than the person he replaced.
In the 2nd District, a man we’ve worked with for many years and whom I high-fived in the Obama Oval Office was reelected, and I’m certain we have more work to do together. Important work that will take new steps now that we’re past the election.
And the Medicaid expansion vote! From the volunteer effort that kicked it off, that was one of the best run campaigns I have ever seen in Idaho and a true measure of what can be done with "Endless pressure, endlessly applied," as a mentor of mine often said. It was a huge win for people and also validation of a strategy for winning.
In my community, Boise, a number of new faces will bring conservation forward in new ways. A former staffer for Advocates of the West is now an Ada County commissioner. A current staffer for The Wilderness Society is now in the Idaho Legislature. There are other good leaders, too.
Yes, there were a lot of setbacks, or more to the point, a lot of more of the same. It’s common to head into an election filled with "irrational exuberance." Idaho has a way of clearing that out, sometimes pretty harshly. Idaho is a very, very conservative place. Change is slow, incremental, and often hard to read on the surface.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in
– Leonard Cohen
We’re back at work. We’re looking for the cracks, the places where we can wedge in, build support, make the crack a bit wider, and move something meaningful forward. It’s the work we do. It’s how we also lead our lives. Do good. Keep taking steps forward. Bring along a few friends. Every once in a while pause and look back. You will notice you really do get somewhere worthwhile. That’s a promise. As long as we keep working together and moving forward.
However you feel about the election, take the energy you brought to it and hold it close. Recharge a bit. There is more work to do. Now, let’s get to it.