Election 2012 Aftermath: 7 “Class” Rules for Elected Officials

Now that the 2012 Presidential Campaign is over and the people have spoken, it’s time to move ahead. Our country faces overwhelming economic challenges and looming deadlines, including a “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and severe spending cuts, a spiraling national debt, and huge annual deficits. There are also weighty international challenges, including Iran, Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and China, to name just a few.

Voters re-elected President Obama at the same time that they endorsed a Republican majority in the House of Representatives and a Democratic majority in the Senate. After the election, President Obama offered to meet with his challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney, while Romney said he and his wife Ann were praying for the President. Congressional leaders also extended the olive branch and expressed a desire to work together. Let’s hope that this is not mere lip service and is followed up by prompt and meaningful actions.

Voters exercised their responsibility to go to the polls. They did so in a dignified and patient manner, at times enduring hours of waiting time. Even victims of Hurricane Sandy, who had lost their homes and possessions, still found a way to cast their ballots. Citizens ought to continue to exercise their responsibility by following up on those they elected. They should call, write, and email them and not only let them know where they stand on issues, but also that they expect them to pursue their agendas in a civil and respectful manner.  The press also has a responsibility to stop focusing on the fluff and hold all officials responsible for their words and actions.

Now it is time for all of our elected officials to get to work immediately and to fulfill their responsibility to their constituents. Let’s hope that the dismal and negative rhetoric of the campaign is behind us and President Obama will use his leadership mandate to usher in a new era of civility in politics.

He would do well to model the example of George Washington, who was guided by civility throughout his political career. At 16-years-old, his tutor gave him the assignment of copying by hand 110 Rules of Civility, an exercise that influenced his life. These rules were composed by French Jesuits in 1595 and were disseminated in Washington’s era. While many of the rules are outdated and anachronistic, their purpose was to foster respect for others as well as self-respect. They provided a guide to Washington and others living at that time about how to get along with one another and work together for the common good.

Advice to teachers and parents always boils down to: Model the behavior you want to see. President Obama might wish to copy his own rules and distribute it to members of Congress, and let everyone know he plans to emulate them himself.  Harry Truman’s sign on his desk, The Buck Stops Here, sent a message to the entire country. Perhaps President Obama would like to frame his own rules and place them on his desk. Successful teachers and parents know that by creating a sense of order, consistency, and trust, they send the message that respect, kindness, and accomplishment are paramount.

I don’t know of an elementary school teacher who does not begin the school year with a discussion of class rules. Secondary schools also have rules, and school districts are required to have Code of Conduct policies. Where is the Code of Conduct for our elected officials?

Here are a few “class” rules – gleaned from teachers and parents – that should help our representatives do the work of the people who elected them – and get to work solving our country’s daunting problems!

    1. Remember You Have Been Elected to Make Things Better
    2. Respect Your Colleagues
    3. Be Prepared To Compromise
    4. Stay On Task
    5. Complete Work On Time
    6. Respect Other People’s Opinions
    7. Stop thinking About The Next Election And Start Thinking About The Good Of The Country

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