The League of Women Voters of Nevada recently announced our 2017 Civility in Politics Campaign, which will run during our upcoming legislative session. Through this program we hope to spotlight and stress the importance of civil discourse in producing good public outcomes. We are asking Nevadans to join us by nominating legislators each week for Civil Discourse awards. We hope our efforts will fall in tandem with similar efforts, including Governor Sandoval’s call for cooperation, and the bipartisan goals of the new Women’s Caucus.
While most people are aware of our work on voter registration, election system integrity, and engaging more community members in issue advocacy, the League of Women Voters of Nevada has also been a consistent supporter of sound governing processes. Consequently, we are heartened by Governor Sandoval’s continuing efforts to promote civility and we applaud the announcement of a new unified Women’s Caucus. While the League does not support political parties or individual candidates in elections, we do support elected officials who strive to do the people’s work in ways that are productive, ethical, and civil.
We are particularly heartened by the emergence of the Women’s Caucus. Beyond efforts to work across party lines, we hope the Women’s Caucus will provide a model of legislative leadership that moves away from scoring political points and engaging in personal attacks and toward achieving shared goals and respect for individual self-determination. There is nothing intrinsic about women that makes them more civil or prone to bipartisanship than men; but it is historically true that politics have been a man’s game for most of our nation’s history. So, it’s not surprising that, without a balance of perspectives, our elections and governing processes have tilted toward being aggressive, conflict-oriented, and at times prone to chest-thumping impasses.
Women therefore have too often found it necessary to behave in belligerent and oppositional ways to be taken seriously, and yet, at the end of the day, still found “No Girls Allowed” placards hung on the leadership ladder. In recent years this experience has led some women to adopt different strategies to accomplish their goals and to promote their priority issues. As these women have addressed their inability to wield the type of power that translates into key positions and control over resources, they have begun grouping together, despite partisan differences, to create a web of support strong enough to match the traditional, male power structures.
The League of Women Voters of Nevada therefore not only views the creation of a Women’s Caucus as a step in the right direction for tempering impolite politics; we also see this as an opportunity to create an alternative model for governing that could one day become the norm. If the Women’s Caucus is successful at passing good legislation, that meets the needs of as many community members as possible, while providing all caucus members the ability to take credit for the success, we may be able to keep moving Nevada toward the top of some of the good lists.
Some may argue that voters are just as partisan as elected officials and therefore expect gladiator games, but, when polled, the sizable number of Americans who do not vote often cite their distaste for negative campaign ads as a reason for not voting, and cite dysfunctional behavior on the part of elected leaders as a reason for distrusting our governing bodies. In truth, most of our elected officials are hard-working, kind, and civil; yet the few bad apples consistently spoil the whole barrel, especially when the press focuses on histrionics and obnoxious behavior. If the Women’s Caucus can provide an example for creating new paths for leadership, while emphasizing civil and productive results, more Nevadans may come to see their vote as being valuable and time spent engaging with governing processes as a good investment.
And for the League of Women Voters of Nevada, more participation in representative democracy is a win for us all.