Dear candidate: Are you a problem solver or culture warrior? | Livingston

The season of election flyer platitudes is upon us. We are being asked to vote and select our favorite candidate based on what we hear from our friends, what we receive in the mail, a wave from a crowd of supporters at a street corner, maybe an actual conversation with the candidate at an event, or when they took the time to knock on our door.

Read carefully the political mailers you receive. They are written in a style designed to connect with your emotional triggers for problems you perceive are major issues — crime, lack of police support, homelessness, or our town’s failing future. Fear statements are designed to trigger a sense of discomfort and often personally blame candidates for their ideas or if they are currently an elected official for their perceived failures.

First, it is important to say that all candidates running for office bring to the table a passion for trying to make society work better — in ways that they believe are correct. If you are the winning candidate, you get a seat at the table, to voice your ideas, wants, needs, and goals. But, the question is — are you a problem solver or striving to be a culture warrior trying to define a righteous path for us to follow?

Elections are about moving us forward, maintaining the status quo or taking us backwards. All the candidates are for safe, affordable communities, economic opportunities, growth, better healthcare, education, childcare, infrastructure and so on. They are all sincere in their platitudes. Some candidates are honest and secure enough to share their beliefs as a way of letting you know what outcomes they will advocate for that may improve our lives and move society forward with a sense of access, equity, equality and fairness.

The dirty work of misleading information comes to your door or mailbox through the work of others. Others with an agenda to keep power or prevent power from being gained. The land of Political Action Committees (PACs) is hard at work in our 30th Legislative District.

As voters residing in the 30th Legislative District, we need to work on becoming smarter consumers and knowledgeable about the needs of our district as well as the values of our candidates. We need to know how their efforts on our behalf have or will improve our city, district or lives. They need to help us understand how their advocacy and service will ultimately benefit us.

We need to know how the candidates will deal with issues as well as the perceptions confronting community policing and accountability. If they believe or know that our district is unsafe, they need to explain how their local and statewide approach will lead to fixing our problems.

South King and Northern Pierce counties have poverty, crime, homelessness, drug, and mental health issues, infrastructure problems, and school-education challenges that need to be addressed. Let us know how electing or retaining you will impact and improve our region’s well-being as well as when we may feel the benefits.

Is your preferred candidate a skilled collaborator within the greater community? Are they able to facilitate thoughtful, appropriate, and measured outcomes for our challenges or are they a party ideologue with a ready yes or no vote serving special interests?

As voters we are society’s process of accountability. Sadly, multiple media sources with conflicting ideas and minimal ethics, in concert with religious moral agendas, PACs and cults of personality have reduced us to siloed tribes of discontent. As voters we need to rise above the manipulative platitudes and misinformation and vote to move our legislative district forward.

Are we asking the right questions or choosing not to see how we are being manipulated into denigrating one another based on fear? “Othering” or “blaming” is a time-honored obfuscation of truth and gives us someone to blame for lack of results or positions with which we may not agree.

How the candidates choose to fund their campaigns and the PACs that support their efforts can provide you with a likely money trail to gain an understanding of their positions, ethics, as well as support. Each PAC mailer is required by state law to let you know who the funders are for the mailer. You may have to do some research to find out the PACs goals and positions.

We are politically being messaged by multiple media sources expressing a desire to impose a religious morality on our nation as a core value, forgetting that as a constitutional mandate — church and state are separate.

Conformity to a religious doctrine, disguised as governance for all, is extremist thinking but has been part of our recent election cycles and right-wing media messaging. White Christian nationalism — a historically bad ideology — is currently in vogue and trying to remake the power structure of our society to favor their fascist beliefs.

Using fear and appealing to people’s lowest common denominator does not make you a better candidate, leader or elected official. We can’t claim the moral high ground for our ideas and party if we yelled “lock her up” because we didn’t like Hillary Clinton, when the man who led the cheer, Donald Trump, is a proven liar and is under investigation for allegedly leading an insurrection, obstruction of justice and more.

Are you a cheerleader for Trumpism, capitalism without regulation, unrestrained policing, years of failed trickle-down economics, combined with the current trend of white privilege religious nationalism? If so, by all means vote that way. But don’t complain if your personal rights, freedoms and economic opportunities continue being reduced as antidemocratic forces gain more control.

Our political parties, as well as the media’s championing of a forever culture war, do not in the long run serve us or this country well. Our leaders need to help us model our society’s best values. In recent years some media sources have been dividing us and using candidates as servants of their ulterior goals — to make money.

Our country’s motto is, “E Pluribus Unum” or “out of many one.” For us to become a better community, legislative district, state, and nation, we need to culturally model respect as well as value blending our diversity into “one.”

When you fill out your November ballot mailer, and send it in by Nov. 8, the candidates you select will represent the future you want. Choose wisely, not all candidates represent a forward-thinking advocacy or a clear understanding of what it means to be building a society that serves all.

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at