Post-Election, Associations Must Act as Civil Refuge

Voters undoubtedly had a lot on their minds as they headed to the polls Nov. 6, beyond whether candidates’ values and views on issues aligned with their own.

There was the spate of politically tinged violence that dominated headlines, the flood of negative ads on both sides aimed at swaying the still-undecided, and maybe for many, a feeling of despair that we are too polarized politically, that bipartisanship and politics as a means of solving problems have fallen to the wayside.

Elections can be very disaffecting for many of us. They can cause us to lose faith that we have a say in the outcomes, or even question generally why any of it matters. And without question, there are people in the world who do not want to see harmonious dialogue, who want to prey on fears and anxiety to sow unrest or feed their own ego.

But that’s not what our democracy is about, and not a trend we will tolerate as American institutions. With the election over, associations can help set the tone for discourse in the months and years ahead. Starting in January, we will have a divided government, but associations can be brokers for conversation and for compromise.

Associations serve as important refuges and communities for people who want to come together for a common purpose and achieve results that are positive for our nation and the world. This is the fundamental purpose of associations, to allow different voices to be heard, to accept that there are many ways of attacking a problem, and ultimately, to make our industries, our professions and our society stronger.

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Regardless of how we feel about the election results and the current political climate, association meetings can continue to be havens where we seek common ground, engage in productive conversations and respect our differences. The role of associations as information brokers and incubators for good ideas is more important than ever.

Associations can also continue to advocate for solutions to our nation’s problems. Associations amplify the voice of the industries and people they represent, and they lend expertise and real-world experience to policymakers who choose to listen and who want to achieve results for their constituencies.

Associations have a huge responsibility to the world. We understand that our stakeholders extend beyond just the members and volunteers we represent, to the communities in which we live and work and the far regions of the world where some innovation or standard we perpetuate helps improve someone’s quality of life. The election is over, but associations remain very much hard at work.

John Graham is the president and CEO of ASAE, Washington, D.C.