An election means having a choice.
No matter your political affiliation, if you are following this blog, you likely believe that a representative democracy is the best way to determine the laws that govern us and our community. An elected official is supposed to bring to the job whatever ideas, knowledge, or background that the voters want them to have – this is representation! The engaged voters will choose, from a group of candidates, the one who most closely represents what the majority wants. By comparing him/herself to the defeated candidates, the newly elected official knows what the majority of voters do not want to see, and maybe gets an idea of where she/he may need to change to make sure government is representing and serving all the people, not just 50% plus 1. Making this choice, being able to make this choice, is the foundation of our government.
When you do not have a healthy competition of ideas, you get stagnation.
Our entire way of life is built on the premise of encouraging a competition of ideas so that the best course of action wins out. Independent state and regional governments can experiment with policy that can be adopted or rejected by the rest of the nation. Towns and villages can debate and explore local solutions to local issues. Adversarial court systems allow all interested parties a seat at the table and a forum to resolve disputes, and businesses compete to provide the products that best meet consumer needs.
When you do not have a healthy competition of ideas, you lack accountability.
Competition is good. It forces the professional, the business, the team, or the official to periodically refocus, make sure they are still performing well, and make corrections where necessary. If an individual or group can operate without fear of consequence or pressure of competition, no matter how disciplined or self-aware they are, they will slack off. This is human nature. In the case of our government, we all pay the price if our officials cannot be held accountable at the ballot box. To ensure a fully functioning democracy, voters must have choices. This doesn’t require turning every policy decision into a gigantic combative effort; it is sufficient for the voters to be given the opportunity to make a choice between two or more options.
Representation doesn’t always mean your candidate wins. It means that you and all the other voters were given a choice, and a decision was made. That is a mandate for leading our towns, our states, and our nation. That is representative democracy.