The Votes Are In

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David Callis, general manager, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

It’s over. The midterm election season, that is. No more campaign ads, repeated ad nauseum during all of your favorite shows. By Election Day, even those of us involved in political activities are ready for it to be over. It’s once again safe to watch television and listen to the radio.

Voter participation has soared over the past two elections. Co-ops Vote is the National Rural Electric Cooperative Associations’s nonpartisan political engagement effort encouraging co-op members to learn about the candidates, research the issues and let their voices be heard by voting.

You did. An estimated 113 million people — 47 percent of the voting-eligible population — cast ballots. It’s the highest percentage of the population to vote in a midterm election in 50 years. It is also the first time more than 100 million have voted in a midterm. To compare to other nonpresidential election years, it’s quite an increase over the past two midterms: 41 percent voted in 2010 and 36.7 percent in 2014.

It is now time for these leaders to govern. They want you to listen to them when they’re campaigning; you want them listen to you as they govern. As the voters who put them in office, you can continue the conversation. That’s one of the roles cooperatives perform when we meet with our elected leaders. We remind them of the needs and concerns of rural America. And we remind them that co-ops vote.

Earlier, I said that it’s over. Well, that’s not exactly accurate. As I’m writing these words, votes are still being counted in Florida and California. That’s another aspect about democracy — it’s frequently messy and chaotic. Humans aren’t perfect, and often the systems we put in place don’t work as smoothly as we wish.

“No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Those words, attributed to Sir Winston Churchill, describe perfectly this government we built — government of the people, by the people and for the people.

It’s been that way since our young nation decided to elect a leader instead of appointing a king. Historian Ron Chernow writes, “On February 4, 1789, the 69 members of the Electoral College made George Washington the only chief executive to be unanimously elected. Congress was supposed to make the choice official that March but could not muster a quorum until April. The reason — bad roads — suggests the condition of the country Washington would lead.”

Washington was finally sworn into office on April 30. He reluctantly agreed to serve as president, knowing that our young nation faced a multitude of difficulties. Chernow continues that in his inaugural address, Washington “trumpeted the big themes that would govern his administration, the foremost being the triumph of national unity over ‘local prejudices or attachments’ that might subvert the country or even tear it apart. National policy needed to be rooted in private morality, which relied on the ‘eternal rules of order and right’ ordained by heaven itself. On the other hand, Washington refrained from endorsing any particular form of religion.”

As we move forward from the campaign, let’s keep in mind that we’re all on the same team. We may differ when it comes to policies and methodologies, but we all want to see our nation prosper and our children and grandchildren have comfortable lives.

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About Author

David Callis

David Callis is a 1982 graduate of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, with a degree in business administration. He began his career at the Tennessee Valley Authority in Chattanooga as an accountant, later becoming supervisor of power revenue. A Nashville native, he relocated back to Middle Tennessee in 1992 to join Tri-County EMC in Lafayette first as director of finance and administration and then as general manager. In February 2001, he joined the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association as director of government and public affairs. In June 2010, he was named vice president of statewide services with oversight over government relations, communications and marketing and member relations for the association. He became general manager in January 2012.

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