Damon Young: Sitting on the sidelines isn’t an option this election season

Damon Young
Damon Young Courtesy photo

The political process shares some similarities to our favorite sporting events.

There’s a lot of fanfare. Passion for teams or candidates is demonstrated by wearing certain colors, waving signs and chanting slogans. Small fortunes are spent on promotional advertising. And the winners find themselves leading a noisy victory parade.

But the political process differs from sporting events in one very important and personal way: You don’t have to wait for the coach’s signal to jump into the game.

You should be tuned in, analyzing the game plan and taking decisive action. In fact, there shouldn’t be anyone sitting in the stands or on the bench waiting for their cue to participate.

And you don’t have to depend on professional recruiters to scout out the best candidates. You can encourage those who can make a real difference to get in the game.

It’s easy to complain about the quality of the candidates on the ballot competing to represent us. But chances are you personally know leaders who are well qualified to make good decisions. Your encouragement and support of their candidacy can be game changers.

City, county, state and federal elections help determine how much of your paycheck you’ll take home, how many new regulations will apply to the business you own, how much you’ll pay for your water and the quality of the education your children will receive.

Actively participating in the political process and electing candidates who represent your values, ideals and interests is the best way to influence your future and profoundly impact the economic viability of your community, state and country.

I’ve been involved in the Government Relations Committee for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce since I was in my late 20s. At my first meeting I noticed a distinct absence of people my own age.

I had a dozen plausible excuses for not returning for the second meeting. But I committed to showing up, listening and learning as much as I could. How else could my generation’s viewpoint on those issues be heard? How else could I eventually make a difference for my family, employer and community?

After more than 10 years of active participation on that committee, I have a deeper understanding of the local, state and federal issues that affect the business community. And I have seen firsthand how the Chamber’s advocacy has impacted the financial viability of area businesses, including my own employer.

Our company’s bottom line has directly benefited from the recent update to the state’s unemployment formula, reforms to the Kansas Workers’ Compensation Act, and the state income tax savings. These economic impacts are directly attributed to advocacy and the rewards are in turn invested back into our people and our community.

Of course, the Chamber’s focus is on the issues and candidates who influence the business environment. Having a champion for Wichita business at the city, state and federal levels is one of the most valuable aspects of Chamber membership. And that advocacy will be even more significant in this important election year.

It’s daunting to dive in and try to become an expert on every issue and candidate on the ballot, so start by selecting two to three issues that matter the most to you. Maybe you’re passionate about energy, health care, education or immigration issues.

You’re going to have to dig deep. Read background materials from both sides, ask questions and seek out trusted sources. Then, discuss the information with your peers in a civil and educational way.

Each of us has a responsibility to get beyond the stereotypes and caricatures that inundate us and engage in our own education. The community discussion by informed voters is one of the best possible outcomes of your involvement, regardless of whether your side “wins.”

Remember that participation from all eligible voters is critical to our success. Election results rest on the shoulders of every voter.

Register to vote, participate in discussion forums, and mark the primary and the general election dates on your calendar: Tuesday, Aug. 2, and Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Your job and the future of your community and country depend on it.

Damon Young, vice president at Mahaney Roofing Co., is a member of the Government Relations Committee for the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Chamber Political Action Committee.