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Letter to the Editor:

How did our politics become so embarrassing? It’s sometimes hard not to compare our nation’s political leadership to a reality TV show or an SNL skit. To exacerbate the issue, I saw a poll yesterday by ABC News that only 20 percent of Americans have faith in the integrity of our nation’s elections.

That’s troubling.

One may wonder how we got here. Since 2010, I’ve been spending my free time helping good people win elections. Many won, but some lost. However, I’ve learned something: the better person does not always win the election. Democracy often gives voters the elected officials they deserve, rather than the leaders that they need.

Running for office is hard. Its time consuming, it wears out your family, and you’re hit with constant attacks that take an emotional toll. Why would a good person put themself through such an ordeal? Most do not. It’s easy to be critical of politicians but the ugly truth is that many people would not pass their own purity test that they hold candidates to.

So, is the solution to let our politicians get a free pass, or lower our standards? Absolutely not. The answer is that we, the people, need to do better. Our elected officials represent us. Until we hold them, and ourselves, to a higher standard, we will continue going down this troubling road.

Instead of shaking your head about our political leaders, why don’t you run? If you are passionate about your community, run for office. At worst, you get to influence the conversation and share your thoughts on the issues with the community. While in Paris, Theodore Roosevelt famously stated that:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt

Teddy lived his life by this principle. If you do not feel comfortable about running for office, call or email your elected officials. Join an organization that advocates for the positions you support. One voice is quiet, but a multitude can make a difference, and it starts with you getting involved.

Most of all, our political state of affairs is a reminder that politicians don’t solve problems, but they often create them. For a while, I served on the board of directors for the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin. It’s a fantastic organization worth learning more about. While I was there, I saw an organization of passionate people provide services to new parents, enact change through the legislature, and impact the lives of thousands. Every day, a few people affect the lives of many. What small actions could you take to help those around you and make this world a little less of a mess?

Sam Wahlen

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