By STEFAN MODRICH
Fort Bend County saw record voter turnout through the close of early voting. Regardless of the results of Tuesday’s election, which were not complete by press time (please visit fortbendstar.com for local election results), there are a few things we should all remind ourselves for the coming weeks and months ahead.
As important as it is to make your voice heard at the ballot box, you shouldn’t be content with checking a box or assume that voting alone signifies you’ve fulfilled your civic duty for an election cycle.
If you’ve volunteered for a candidate, whether they won or lost, ask them what is next for them and what you and your friends and neighbors can do to advocate for a cause you believe in or an issue that you feel deserves more attention in your community.
Follow up with your elected officials regularly to stay in the loop on all of the goings-on, from your city hall to the Fort Bend County Annex to Austin and Washington. (One great way to do that, of course, is to read the Fort Bend Star, and to support quality local journalism in its many forms.)
Volunteer at an animal shelter, a homeless shelter, or a food bank. Start a GoFundMe or pick a charity to donate some of the proceeds from your business to a cause you believe in. I believe in the power of localism to make real, tangible and visible change on a grassroots level and think many candidates across Fort Bend County this year are trying to communicate that same message in different ways.
Call your state and federal elected officials and introduce yourself and tell them why it matters to you and to them that your voice is heard. It’s important to create a dialogue to improve upon the toxic partisan culture that we’ve seen trickle down from our national political environment for the past several years.
I know these are deeply polarized and divisive times, and Fort Bend is certainly not immune to the temptations of the ugly rhetoric we’ve seen on both sides of the aisle.
After the 2016 election, I made a point of letting friends and family of different political leanings know how much I respected and valued their opinions and that I wouldn’t let that affect our relationship. I was surprised at how positive the reception was, and I would like to think that is the case here for many of you. I will challenge you to extend an olive branch to at least one person with whom you profoundly disagree, and compliment them on something you admire about them.
Another important reminder: My political opinions will never be inserted in my coverage of elections or anything else, which is worth emphasizing, as well as the distinction between our opinion section and our editorial coverage.
Even if our leaders do not concede their losses with grace and dignity, and we may not have some of the best examples being amplified during these trying and in many ways absurd and ridiculous times, I still am confident that we will be good sports, accept the results no matter if we like them or not, and remain a model of bipartisan cooperation for the rest of the country to follow.
If we find ourselves stressing about this or wavering from that ideal, I think it would be wise for us to revisit the conclusion of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in 1861:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”