Reader view: What does it mean to be nonpartisan?

It’s a given that a word can have more than one meaning, depending on how you use it. Words like “live” and “park.” You catch my drift. We know we must be thoughtful in how we use them for their true meaning to be known. Not a super hard thing to do.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve found myself questioning the use of the “n” word. There are some who feel it’s an OK word to use or reference but can also be problematic in practical application. It isn’t an inherently bad word to use, but its execution can leave little to be desired, and I’ve found myself not liking this word as much as I used to.

That “n” word is nonpartisan.

Nonpartisan can simply be defined as having a lack of affiliation and/or a lack of bias toward a political party. Pretty straight forward. Yet, in its practical application, it can come off to be more divisive than uniting. There are many who say that they want nonpartisanship yet will take issue if a person from a different political group agrees on a topic, legislation or candidate.

I can remember a time in the not too distant past that leaders and elected officials who could reach across the aisle to find middle ground were seen as aspirational. A necessity, even. In today’s climate, we see more of a my-way-or-the-highway sentiment, fueled by anger and frustration. While anger and frustration at times can be warranted, what does it mean when it comes to nonpartisanship?

Several offices up for election this year are labeled as nonpartisan, from city council to judicial posts. The roles are designed to serve all the people within their jurisdictions, but candidates can choose to indicate a party they align with. Having been a candidate myself, this alone is a Catch-22: Constituents can be critical of you for declaring where your overall beliefs may fall, but if you don’t declare, constituents can still be critical of you for not sharing what party you align with in general.

We all have a belief system, based on our life experiences , and/or who we’ve allowed ourselves to be mentored by. I submit that a role can be nonpartisan, but not a person themselves. That being said, one can do the job they’ve been chosen for in representing their decision making in a nonpartisan way. The ability to separate church and state in elected office (as well as in personal and professional relationships) is eroding at a fast pace… unless we individually decide to do something about it. I’ve witnessed friendships becoming fractured, not feeling like they can be truthful in expressing their beliefs, for daring to have an opinion different from theirs.In a town as small and close knit as ours, we can’t afford to continue this way.

I like to think that I’ve matured over the years around nonpartisanship, and frankly the career that I have mandates it, to encourage civil discourse. I can look at things differently than someone else, but still be respectful in listening to their side of things, and vice versa. I have friendships and working relationships with those that I don’t 100 percent align with, but we have something foundationally that connects us. I’ve also learned that you can have an appeal to more than one constituency without it meaning you’ve somehow sold your soul. The last part of that sentence reads a bit extreme, but sadly it isn’t.

In theory, going back to its definition, a person running for a nonpartisan position should be seen as a viable candidate and hold some level of appeal, regardless of what a voter’s political leaning is.

These past few weeks, I’ve been more troubled than usual by this “n” word. There is a candidate running for a nonpartisan position locally that has given me significant pause. This person decided to lean in the latter part of the definition of nonpartisan by not showing a lack of bias regarding a political party. Said candidate has been endorsed by groups representing two of the major parties, something I haven’t seen in a long time. Yet, this person is being criticized heavily for connecting with both parties, to the point that one of these groups wants to rescind their endorsement.

Their members can choose to do that, but I must ask: “What message are you conveying?”

It’s a good time to ponder what nonpartisanship means to each one of us. Is it the Catch-22 as described above?

— By Alicia Crank

Alicia Crank lives in Edmonds.

  1. Alicia I’ll bite. I am unsure where you were going with this. I feel the want for our government to be nonpartisan is aspirational and reasonable but in reality will never be completely so especially since nearly all other elected positions are allowed to be partisan. One could say in this state that the right side of the ballot has little to no chance of winning or influence in decision making in this state for at least the last 3 decades and has gotten to the point that frankly they have been ignored and in my opinion leading to many of the rising problems we are facing today in this state. No I am not saying we would have be better off if the other side was in charge but we may have been better off if those other voices weren’t just ignored and frankly propagated as being mean, evil, deplorable etc. There is no nonpartisan in our local area any affiliation with the right is despised we are literally a minority group and face many of the problems you are very familiar with. As for a side endorsing or pulling a endorsement for a particular candidate in a supposedly nonpartisan election it could have a effect if it was the Democrat party pulling a endorsement it could be a death sentence.

  2. Ms Crank, thank you for your thoughtful and careful look at what it really means to be nonpartisan. You have stated much for the reader to dissect and carefully ponder to get the full benefit and meaning of this writing. Your words, “I’ve also learned that you can have an appeal to more than one constituency without it meaning you’ve somehow sold your soul. The last part of that sentence reads a bit extreme, but sadly it isn’t”. Alicia, thank you, this hits one at the core. You say this last part of your sentence may read a bit extreme but yes, sadly, it’s what we are experiencing here in Edmonds, in our state, and nationally. As individuals and as a community, we can do better – we must. We have enormous potential working together. As for the candidate you refer to whom has garnered the endorsement of two groups, I say “wonderful”. This person has managed to do what many, if not most, of our state and nationally elected officials consistently fail to do and that is “reach across the aisle”. And yet now, how sad that now one side wants to pull away. Short sighted, a losing mentality. Ms Crank, I look forward to any future writings you may wish to share. Mr Fairchild, thank you, I agree.

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