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Commentary

FAITHFUL, WATCHFUL CITIZENS: Post-election time

This is one of those columns that will be written before a significant event occurs, but that will be published after that event has occurred. That event is election day, as you might have guessed. And while I would love to give you my $.02 on how the elections went, God still has not given me the gift of fortune telling in the way he gave that gift to the prophets of old. So, my armchair post-election analysis will have to wait and, for now, I’ll stick with some other tips and tricks now that we are in a post-election world.

Tip #1: Take a Deep Breath. For months and months, and even over a year in some races, you have had candidates vying for your time, attention and vote. News cycles have been chock full of election-related stories. The commercials in between your favorite shows and your social media news feeds have been peppered (if not flooded) with political advertisements. And, it goes without saying, but your mailboxes have received their fair share of political handbills.

With the passing of election day, let yourself take a deep breath from all the political jockeying that has taken place. In fact, in the words of the health gurus, perhaps you might want to “detox” a little bit from the political world. I suggest this not because all the campaigning is a bad thing in and of itself (it is not!), but because it is good to sometimes take a break and step away from an activity that has been consuming your world for a period of time.

But, only a deep breath or detox – no sabbaticals – because we can’t have anybody “sitting on the sidelines in the fight for justice.”

Tip #2: Did You Get New Representatives? With all or most all the election results in by this point, it is inevitable that you gained some new representatives. For example, we all have a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. But you might also have a new state senator, state board of education member, city councilman or councilwoman, and the list goes on.

If you didn’t get a great understanding of who these individuals are while they were running for public office, now is as good a time as any to learn more about them. Find out about the issues that matter to them. If you have some sort of personal contact or encounter with them, you can ask them if they have anything like a “100-day plan” detailing what some of their first major acts will be in their newly elected role.

Tip #3: Vote Count. Elections are extremely important. As we say at the Nebraska Catholic Conference, elections “set the chessboard.” Or, if you want another slick analogy, elections give us the “cards we are dealt.” All this means we can begin to “make our plays” according to what has been given to us.

The Nebraska Catholic Conference works on a number of issues where most – if not nearly all – the candidates know where they stand. For example, candidates typically have clear platforms on issues like abortion, education, religious liberty and immigration. Because of that, in the days after the election, the Nebraska Catholic Conference will put forth additional efforts to get a good grasp on the “vote counts” for the major issues we work on.

With preliminary vote counts on the major issues, we can get a better sense for what type of legislation we might be able to pass in the upcoming legislative session, and what type of legislation might be good to bring but may not necessarily have the support to progress through the political process.

Tip #4: The Work Is Just Beginning. While plenty of work has already begun throughout the elections, the work of public policy can begin in earnest. As mentioned above, with “vote counts” becoming more clear now that the “cards have been dealt,” each and every one of us can begin to do the work of further persuading our public officials what matters most for Nebraska. For the Nebraska Catholic Conference, this work takes place through lobbying. For all of you across the state, this work primarily takes place through grassroots lobbying.

My prayer as always is that you’ll take your role to be involved in the public policy process very seriously, and will begin cultivating those relationships with your public officials to help move the needle in favor of peace and justice!

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at tvenzor@necatholic.org.