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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Betty Saenz REALTOR® GRI SRES® EcoBroker® on 03/24/2016

I do agree with you that we need “respect for the political process and those who participate” because that is what “produces legendary results that are at the core of all democratic freedoms”. We need to respect our leaders and hope the candidates will be respectful of the public office for which they are running and uphold the constitution and political processes of our great land.

Ron Harris on 03/20/2016

We should be working to improve our nation of citizens from many origins remember coalitions are better than single minded-AWD serving leaders.

Sandy Bednar on 03/16/2016

Inspiring article Mark…...resounding words “respect for the political process and those who participate” .......let us all do our part in continuing this respect.

Vicki Fullerton on 03/15/2016

This was a fitting and beautifully written opinion on the memorial service & condition of our current political system.  Thank you for your most appropriate words.

John Harrell on 03/15/2016

This blog takes me back to a more effective era in politics. Both sides had significant differences, but found a way to work together for the American people. Our current “leaders” could learn something from these people.

Beautiful observation, Mark.

Betsy Senter on 03/15/2016

Thank you for your thoughtfully written editorial comment.  It’s embarrassing and disgusting how the process has degraded to the current insulting match ... there is NO debate!  I’m hopeful that those of us who want to work out solutions, not demand “our way” as if ours is the ONLY opinion that matters, will hang in there long enough that civility and common sense will return!  Keep up the good work!
Betsy Senter, CRB, CRS
Fort Worth

Tom Jensen Morgan on 03/15/2016

Thank you Mark for sharing this moving essay.  There is no higher calling in a democracy than respect for the political process and all the freedom it entails.

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