Collegiality – it ain’t what it used to be

I grew up as part of the infamous 60s generation. At the time, I thought our government could not be more broken, less mindful of the people it served or less responsive to national needs. I was so wrong.

Here’s the definition of collegial. “Relating to or involving shared responsibility, as among a group of colleagues.” Here’s a further explanation of that definition. “Relating to a friendly relationship between colleagues; used to describe a method of working in which responsibility is shared among several people.”

I learned about collegiality in civics classes, something I’m guessing isn’t taught much anymore. I learned this when I was taught that our legislative branch of government was one that functioned in a collegial manner in order to get the people’s work done. I shouldn’t be surprised that the younger generations haven’t heard about this. It’s not only because they aren’t taught civics anymore and many would not be able to name the three branches of government correctly if their lives depended on it. It’s more that collegial work has become a dirty, obsolete idea in America today.

When you have a government that is totally dependent on collegiality in order to function, then you definitely have a problem when that collegiality is lost. And boy howdy, has our government lost it today.

The federal, state and city governments are all comprised of people elected to office by a population with opinions that range all over the place. This is why the people we elect to office need to understand the difference between campaigning and governing. I get the distinct impression that many do not understand that.

I’m not urging that we go back to the day when the people’s business was done with a handshake and a wink. But I do think we should look back at some of our most successful politicians to see if they understood what was expected of them when it came to governing collegially.

We don’t have to go back very far. In fact, we don’t have to go back any further than Ted Stevens. You remember him, right? We even named an airport after him.

Uncle Ted, as he will always be to me, was someone I disagreed with way more than I agreed with. But he was also someone I respected who understood the power of compromise in actually getting things done. He was willing to trade, to barter, to compromise. He did what was best for this country and this state. He got everyone mad at him at one point or another. And he had everyone happy with him equally as much. He knew that for government to function for the welfare of his constituents, he needed to sometimes cross that aisle and work with – gasp, horror – a Democrat. And he did. He worked with them. And in doing so he fulfilled his campaign promises to always work towards the best for Alaska. Maybe it wasn’t always exactly the way he wanted it, but with each compromise, he inched Alaska a little further along to becoming the great state it is.

The current situation in Washington DC is simply embarrassing for this country on a worldwide level. It would seem those people currently occupying the seats once held by true American patriots have completely forgotten how to govern. If they don’t figure it out fast, we might all have to learn Chinese and Russian a lot sooner than we expected we would.

You know, if Uncle Ted had been alive for this last election where the Republican Party of Alaska turned its back on Lisa Murkowski because she put her country first in her impeachment vote, he would have been horrified. Not by Lisa’s vote. He would have probably voted the same way. No, he would have been horrified by the idea that Republicans wanted to put in her place a lady whose only qualifications were her promises to basically be part of the gang that is trying to destroy American democracy.

Collegiality – we should get the definition printed in big letters and sent to every sitting legislator from Congress down to the City Assembly. Maybe they just need to be reminded that that’s how our government functions at its best. Without it, our government doesn’t function at all.