Nebraska Banking Friends:
Another election year has come and gone. Unless you happen to live in the great state of Georgia, I suspect your televisions, social media channels and mailboxes will not be cluttered with campaign or political materials for the next two years.
The most recent election cycle was clearly unlike any I have experienced in my lifetime, with a much more polarized debate, divergent political philosophies and negative advertising taken to a whole new level. The expansion of 24-hour news outlets and aggressive social media channels will, in my opinion, reshape future political campaigns.
After careful reflection and contemplation, I think there were several valuable lessons learned through the 2020 primary and general elections. Let me begin by thanking the many candidates, regardless of their political parties or philosophies, who were willing to put their names on the ballot. These positions, especially at the local and state levels, come with little or no pay. In many ways, these local and state offices are thankless jobs. Term limits, especially at the state level, have created the need to routinely generate an increased number of candidates for office. We should celebrate our fellow Nebraskans who step forward to share their time and talents for the greater good of our communities, regions and state.
Voting is a privilege in our country that has been taken for granted by many generations. This year, Nebraska voters like their fellow voters around the country turned out in record numbers. Statistics provided by the Nebraska Secretary of State’s office show voter turnout in excess of 76%, with more than 966,000 Nebraskans voting. There were many counties that had voter turnout in excess of 80%. Again, the passion and enthusiasm for this year’s election is something that should be celebrated because it is the foundation of our representative democracy.
It is also important to remember these record turnouts occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Special thanks go out to the many poll workers, election officials and volunteers who ensured voters felt safe casting their ballots. In addition, Nebraska’s election results appeared to be processed, counted and reported in a safe and efficient manner. This level of success does not occur without a great deal of planning, communication, implementation and effort by a large cast of unsung election heroes.
Again, regardless of philosophy or party, my biggest frustration from this election cycle was the tendency for voters to make their candidate selection based upon emotions, sound bites or partial information. We all read the stuffers in our mailboxes, for example, saying this candidate is bad because….! As a lifelong political junkie, I tried to engage my friends on both sides of the political spectrum in discussions about policy and priorities. I may be a bit Pollyannish, but I am sad to see the loss of civility and respectful debate that is occurring in our hyper-fractured world.
Nebraska bankers are often the leaders and visionaries in their communities and are laser-focused on problem solving. As we look to the future, I challenge our industry to channel that same leadership and focus on future election cycles:
- Every bank and banker should strongly encourage employees, family, friends and neighbors who have a passion and aptitude for public service to run for office. Finding motivated, highly qualified candidates is key to building a stronger future.
- If financial limitations keep an otherwise highly qualified candidate from running for public office, I would encourage the business community in your respective region to look for solutions to support the candidate and their families in other ways. Does your bank or a local business, as an example, have a part-time position that could be filled by this potential candidate, thereby enhancing their career stability?
- Security of the election process has received a great deal of recent public and media attention and scrutiny. Whether this issue revolved around potential outside influencers or questions about the actual election process and the counting of ballots, it is quintessential that the American election be both transparent and fair. Talk with leaders in your community about how such election requirements are implemented in your local region. Consider, for example, asking your local county clerk to make a presentation about the election process at the local Rotary or Kiwanis meeting. Similarly, maybe your bank can sponsor an election educational initiative at your local school.
- I would be remiss if I did not also urge you to continue to give to the NBA BankPAC. This important tool allows the Nebraska banking industry to collectively support candidates who support pro-banking and pro-business enterprises.
- And finally, I strongly encourage every Nebraska banker to foster fair, open and honest debate about important public policy issues.
America is an amazing country with centuries of proven success and prosperity. Sure, we have had difficult times, but collectively Nebraska banks can help provide leadership focused on engaged political debate, finding common ground and recognizing the personal and professional sacrifice of every Nebraskan who is willing to put their name on the ballot for consideration!