As we enter the home stretch of another election, which we are told “could be the most important election of our lifetime,” we reflect on what has been, when we should be talking about big ideas for our future. Unfortunately, American politics continues to devolve into sound bites, dark and unflattering pictures, outrageous allegations and campaign smear. When we seek the positive, we are told instead that negative works.

Really? It’s not OK if I disagree?

When I ran for Congress, I promised to bring our Midwest values to Washington. As I engage in our uniquely American election process, I constantly reflect on my and my team’s performance to date. Have we been working on solutions to the biggest problems facing America’s future?

As far as my promise to take our values to Washington, I know our team does that each day. The majority of Minnesotans, regardless of political perspective, do not appreciate smash-mouth politics. Minnesotans are better than that; Minnesotans deserve better than that.

Minnesotans appreciate thoughtfulness, respect for one another, teamwork, understanding and, of course, a good hotdish. (I realize some believe winning this year’s Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition is our most impressive accomplishment to date.)

No matter on which side of the aisle, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues in Congress, especially those in our Minnesota delegation. After all, we share the same grueling schedules, we all deal with daily criticisms from those with whom we disagree (or are just plain disagreeable) and, ultimately, we all want the same things: a strong economy, safe communities, good schools, clean air and water, and a better future for the next generation of Americans. We really only differ on how to get there.

Politics, like life in general, is all about relationships. That is why, since I was first elected to Congress, I have made it a priority to get to know my colleagues as people — their likes and dislikes, what they want to accomplish and what motivates them. In a time of incredible divisiveness and jumping to conclusions about a person’s character, building relationships with Democrat and Republican members is paramount.

What’s more, those relationships have generated some incredible (and often, nonpartisan) legislation that all Americans can support: the Abby Honold Act, the Stemming the Tide of Rural Economic Stress and Suicide (STRESS) Act, the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act and the Keeping Capital Local for Underserved Communities Act.

The people I work for — that’s you — sent me to Washington to solve problems, not identify them. Minnesotans are tired of the divisive and childish bickering. They expect us to offer and support policies that make their lives, and their children’s lives, better and create more opportunity for everyone.

As our nation continues forward, we need to get back to debating big ideas again. We have to stop the “us vs. them” approach and remember that we are all in this together. If we are going to be successful, we are going to have to work together, lead together and show the rest of the country how Minnesotans from all walks of life can (and do!) live well together.

 

Tom Emmer, a Republican, represents Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District.