Collectively, we seldom really engage in the political process and when we do, it's more than likely that we focus on the big races: the Presidential election every four years and perhaps some of the local races where we know the candidates and can measure the direct impact of their policies.
We must realize that we are more than red states and blue states and regardless of where we are from, we have a vested interest in not just "our" elected officials but in every elected official. There are a number of extraordinary Democratic Senate Candidates running for election and re-election. I urge you to explore the DSSC website and support as many as you can, especially if there is a contested race in your state. I want to focus for a moment on Andrew Rice, a US Senate Candidate from Oklahoma.
Born and reared in Oklahoma City, Andrew Rice is, to me, the embodiment of the new generation of leadership that our nation so desperately needs. He is going up against incumbent Jim Inhofe, one of the Senate's most conservative members. Before serving in the Oklahoma State Senate, Senator Rice was a strong advocate for creating the 9/11 commission and upon arriving in Oklahoma continued to put people first by co-sponsoring and passing the "All Kids Act" which made health care attainable to 38,000 more of Oklahoma's children. He was instrumental in helping to pass the "Oklahoma Food Security Act" which helped to expand Oklahoma's food security initiatives and was received with gratitude by VetVoices this past March upon passing a bill that would help uninsured Oklahoman veterans obtain health insurance.
What strikes me about Senator Rice, even more than his record, is his vision and his grasp of the fundamental undercurrents of what public service should entail. In a society that hungers for a "new generation of leadership", I asked Senator Rice what the concept meant to him. His response gave insight into the unique opportunity afforded to the citizens of Oklahoma this November to elect someone who will truly work for them.
To me, a new generation of leadership means returning to an old idea of public service. This nation was founded on the notion of limited government, the greatest limit being that all public officials are ultimately responsible to the people. That's why I'm running for U.S. Senate - to put people before politics. Washington today is littered with politicians who have forgotten that basic principle. Unfortunately for Oklahoma, after spending 22 years in Washington, my opponent is one of them. When lifetime politicians such as Jim Inhofe think they can stay in power without being responsive to the needs of their constituents, we must demand new leaders and new solutions. I've listened to the people of Oklahoma in their communities, and many of them tell me they haven't had a politician really listen to them in a long time. That more than anything tells me that we need fresh ideas in Washington. A new generation of leadership is one that will shake up the Washington status quo, and it's what we sorely need in this country.
I have met Senator Rice on several occasions and can attest to the fact that he is an unusual breed of politician who is incredibly thoughtful and open-minded. His statement unveils the kind of clear-eyed leadership that is lacking in Washington. What our society needs is new leaders who will ascribe to old ideals, the very ideals that mark the conception of this nation. We require elected officials who will listen to their constituents and, above all, serve them well.
I think, in part, it was recognizing the people's desire for "new leaders" that drove Senator McCain to choose Governor Palin as his running mate. What McCain fails to understand, and what Rice has clearly and passionately articulated, is that this "new generation of leaders" will not be measured by age or appearance. We require new leaders that will adhere to the qualities of youth as articulated by Robert Kennedy during his Day of Affirmation Address.
Our answer is the world's hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.
The Republican Party doesn't get it. Although they tried to position themselves as "agents of change" throughout their Convention, they continue to champion the same failed policies that comprise a "present which is already dying". Our nation requires us to collectively embrace the qualities of youth, to return to the fundamental idea that we all put country first and it is our elected officials who sometimes fail to put people first.
When Jim Inhofe questions Senator Obama's patriotism, he proves that he's an agent of the partisan politics and tired rhetoric that emerge out of having "nothing to say". The Republican Party has no choice but to utilize distractions in an attempt to bypass the need to answer for the last eight years of failed policies. Inhofe has voted with President Bush 98% of the time with a record that even puts him at odds with his Party's Nominee. Inhofe's record, and his recent rhetoric, indicate that he doesn't have the "temper of will" to serve in a capacity that will truly help to move our country forward. He has failed to rise above doing what is easy, to do what is right.
I have come to understand that what happens on election day, up and down the ballot, across the country, matters to me. This election provides us all with the opportunity to once and for all proclaim that we have a vested interest in one another, as Americans, and in the actions of all of our leaders regardless of what capacity they serve in or who they identify as their "constituents". Members of the United States Senate should answer to us all.
Senator Inhofe has a lot to answer for.
When Senator Inhofe voted against more armored vehicles for our troops in 2005 he wasn't just voting against the interests of American soldiers from Oklahoma. No, he was letting down soldiers from New York and Indiana and Florida and Arkansas who have been deployed to a war that should have never been. Ironically, this is the same war that Senator Inhofe voted for.
When the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Organization gives Inhofe a D- for failure to support our troops and veterans, then this stops being a partisan issue and becomes an issue of accountability.
When Senator Inhofe calls global warming a hoax and compares people who believe in it to Nazis, he's not only insulting people like myself, but also members of his party including his President and his Party's Nominee. He's insulting the Americans who require clean energy solutions and a generation that needs its leaders to start tapping into energy alternatives now.
When Senator Inhofe casts his votes in support of the Bush Tax Cuts that do nothing to provide relief for a nation that is economically struggling he lets down the people of Oklahoma as well as the people of Utah and Maryland and Maine and Texas who are still not seeing the supposed benefits of a trickle down tax policy. The Bush Tax Cuts represent an overall economic strategy that assumes that when the wealthiest prosper, we all prosper. The reality of our current economic state debunks this entirely ideological approach to our economy.