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A welcome opportunity to honor the political process

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Professional headshot of Mark Lehman

03/15/2016 | Author: Mark Lehman

In Lehman's Terms

We are experiencing divisive politics at its worst this election season. But last Friday, influential figures from both parties respectfully came together on a California hilltop to honor a figure of American democracy, former first lady Nancy Reagan.

While watching the live broadcast of Mrs. Reagan’s funeral services on network television from my office in Austin, I was struck by the profoundness of the occasion.

The coverage rightfully centered on her accomplishments and her very special relationship with President Ronald Reagan. But to me, the event’s significance wasn’t in the memories guests shared as eulogies, poems, and personal letters. And it wasn’t in the smiles from humorous anecdotes and appreciation of the American flag do-rag worn to the service by Mr. T, the actor whose friendship with Mrs. Reagan grew after he helped with her “Just Say No” campaign in the ‘80s.

Instead, it was the people who spoke volumes simply by attending the service.

Democrats who attended included first lady Michelle Obama, California Gov. Jerry Brown, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Carolyn Kennedy, former first lady Rosalynn Carter, and family members representing Presidents Johnson, Truman, and Franklin Roosevelt. Republicans in attendance included President George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush, former Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz, and representatives from the Ford, Nixon, and Eisenhower families.

Their collective presence wasn’t about political idealism. It was a symbol of respect for the political process and the people who engage in that process—Mrs. Reagan herself being a perfect example.

This spotlight on the Reagan era also reminds us that the historic success of his presidency was not a victory for Republicans, conservatives, a bygone era, or a specific political agenda. It was a victory for the political process—a process in which Democrats and Republicans worked together for the good of the United States of America. This effort produced effective policy that has guided our country for many years, and has been a guidepost for democratic governmental entities at all levels.

Once the services concluded, the network returned to its coverage of the current political debates about who should be our next leaders. Unfortunately, these debates have been characterized by unprecedented personal, ethnic, and party affiliation smears. Extremists on both sides of the political spectrum have hijacked the conversation and made it almost impossible for candidates to debate solutions to important issues, and even mentioning the word “compromise” is considered a political weakness.

This discourse is not limited to the race for the White House. Many campaigns for state races, like state senator and representative, as well as local races for city councils, commissioners’ courts, and even school boards, carry this negative thread.  

The pros and cons of the Reagan era will be debated for generations. However, one non-debatable absolute was displayed in all its glory on that California hillside: respect for the political process and those who participate produces legendary results that are at the core of all democratic freedoms.  

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs at the Texas Association of REALTORS®.

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