As the election seasons heats up, have you been tempted not to support someone who has changed party or who doesn’t toe the party line? Or are you more interested in a candidate’s qualifications and integrity? I hope it is the latter, as we struggle to keep our democracy intact. Our cities, states and country all need effective governments that serve the needs of all our people, not ideologues who put party loyalty before all else.

As the election seasons heats up, have you been tempted not to support someone who has changed party or who doesn’t toe the party line? Or are you more interested in a candidate’s qualifications and integrity? I hope it is the latter, as we struggle to keep our democracy intact. Our cities, states and country all need effective governments that serve the needs of all our people, not ideologues who put party loyalty before all else.
Especially at a local level, why should party affiliation matter in the election of a surveyor, a judge or a county commissioner? Isn’t it more important to elect a person with integrity and expertise? Party “hacks” won’t necessarily get the work done well or efficiently.
We often complain about government not living up to our expectations. But aren’t we the problem? Voters who elected candidates because they had an R or a D next to their name without considering their other qualifications do a disservice to us all. I know that is the easy way — no research time is needed. But who said democracy was easy?
Even on a state and national level, do you want a candidate who is a rubber stamp and doesn’t think for her/himself? One who has never held a town meeting? Who never listens to constituents with differing views? Whose votes reflect only the needs of his donors and party?
Americans, we must get past our current divisions if we are ever to function as a true democracy again. I believe that means moving our politics toward the middle by electing those representatives that can, and will, work with those with differing views to find the best combination of ideas. At both the national and state level the best solutions are usually compromises, with neither side totally happy. A democracy CANNOT function when one side insists on “its way or the highway,” and candidates with that mindset could eventually doom us.
To complicate matters, there are not just two views—the conservative and the liberal. If that were true, the Freedom Caucus could not stalemate a Republican-dominated legislature. Liberals are no less divided. For example, one can be a social liberal and still aspire to a fiscally solvent government. Demonizing taxes and glorifying tax breaks has led to our current state of affairs where our indebtedness is 105% of our GDP and headed upward.
This is NOT the time to hold fast to past tribal patterns. Parties' missions have changed over the years. In a recent, local survey taken in a high school social studies program, students learned that the values they hold dear no longer corresponded with the political party  with which they thought they were affiliated. That is a signal that we should ALL examine our own values and find candidates with similar ones. Look at all your values, not just one or two hot-button issues that political parties use to drive people to the polls. 
2018 is a year of opportunities, with many choices on our ballots. We must take advantage of these choices by doing the necessary research to unearth pragmatists who can get the job done, rather than ideologues who insist on their own way.
We can begin this week. Tonight there is a meet-and-greet for a state rep. candidate from the 160th district  on Neosho’s square at the Weston Event Center from 6:30-8.
Wednesday night,  7 p.m. June 20, there is an opportunity to meet four candidates for the U.S. 7th congressional district in Joplin at 20th and Empire.
Thursday night, June 21, the Farm Bureau is hosting a bipartisan local-candidate forum at Crowder College’s Wright Center (Farber Building) from 6:30—8:30 p.m. I plan to be there. Will you?

Catherine Rhoades writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.