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Words Matter

October 5, 2016

I spent yesterday morning in synagogue observing Rosh Hashanah. In her sermon, the Rabbi touched on one particular thought that resonated deeply with me. Reflecting on her own painful experiences with carelessly spoken words, she suggested the following guidelines for being more mindful about provocative discourse: Are the words true? Are the words kind? Even if the words are true, do they really need to be said?Like most people, I have found this Presidential campaign to be very unsettling. Aside from the near total absence of thoughtful debate about the many challenges confronting America, the level of discourse has largely been demeaning; moronic; filled with lies and innuendos; and generally vile. Rather than lifting us up with words that inspire and speak to "the better angels of our souls", both sides have consciously chosen to go to the gutter and stay there. The rhetoric of this campaign will do nothing to bring us together as a people; it will, however, greatly exacerbate the canyon-like schisms that already divide us as countrymen.True leaders inspire, by reminding us that that which binds us a people is and must forever be greater than the moments and issues that estrange us. By word and deed, the nominees of both Parties have miserably failed that basic test. The coarseness of their comments; bizarre ramblings that should make the village idiot cringe; the constant assault on each other’s' intellectual, moral, and even physical competency to serve in office; makes all but the most delusional partisans amongst us yearn for something better. Both nominees possess historic personal negatives, leaving many of us to wonder how in a nation of 324 million people, these two became the major party nominees. Rational voters deliberate between supporting the alleged “liar and crook, or the narcissistic bigot". At some level, we can enjoy the humor provided by Saturday Night Live sketches. At a far more sober level, we remember that one of these two candidates will become the next President of the United States.I want to go back to where I started, writing about the power of words. Both candidates have permanently compromised their leadership mantle. Their words, equally and as powerfully as their deeds, have left us the poorer for this campaign.For those of us who are involved in government relations, as well as for any thoughtful American citizen who cares about the future of this republic, the toxic legacy of the 2016 Presidential election will be growing voter doubt about our ability to govern an increasingly disconnected and diverse populous. When the 115th Congress is sworn in next January, someone will have to lead, someone will have to attempt to heal the rift. I truly believe that it falls to all of us to play a role. As trade association leaders, corporate executives, lobbyists, congressional and agency staff who are directly involved in the policy process, we must take responsibility for those small portions of the larger debate that we can control.If we cannot look to our next President for the healing rhetoric that America will need, then the burden will more squarely fall on each of us. Less combustible, hyperbolic language; more modulated descriptions of partisan and ideological differences; and fewer zero sum, end of days descriptions of policy outcomes; would certainly help. The honest truth is that we inhabit this nation together, and its' ample bounties can and should be shared by all. I am urging us to begin the policy discussions anew: with passion and fervor but without invectives. All of us can make a difference in this regard.Words matter. Our parents taught us that but some of us seem to have forgotten why it truly matters so much.

Chuck Merin

Chuck, Prime Policy Group’s executive Vice President, possesses more than 45 years of Washington experience, beginning with service as a congressional staffer. He has established himself as the premier lobbyist for service and hospitality industry interests in Washington. He is an expert in building legislative coalitions and helping clients forge effective, long-term relationships on Capitol Hill. Chuck is perhaps best known for his close affiliation with the Blue Dog Coalition, an alliance of more than two dozen pro-business, conservative House Democrats whose votes are much coveted.
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