The ballots are in, the votes have been counted (and in Carolina Forest they’re being recounted), the victory and concession speeches have been given, and residents and politicians alike are breathing sighs of relief as we return to our normal lives after yet another divisive political season. But if you’re one of those elected, now comes the hard part.
As the victorious candidates are sworn into office in the coming months, they will confront an electorate that’s fed up with politicians in general and that can’t understand why our leaders can’t seem to complete the most basic tasks without becoming petty children who never learned to share their toys. And though our economic recovery continues to painstakingly sputter along, there remain enormous obstacles ahead that will require not just rhetoric but increasingly rare diplomacy and compromise.
That’s certainly true on the national stage, where Congress and the president will be immediately confronted by the so-called fiscal cliff that’s looming Jan. 1. Without quick, decisive action by both the Democratic president and Senate and the Republican House, the combination of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts threaten to throw us right back into recession. So, congratulate yourselves for a day or two and then head back to work. We’re still in a crisis here.
On the state level, there’s plenty left on the to-do list from last year. The session starts just a couple of short months from now. It’s time to start prefiling all those bills promised on the campaign trail. We’re still waiting on ethics reform, tax code simplification, school funding reform, government restructuring and early voting, just to name a few. And speaking of promises, don’t forget about those vows to keep listening to your constituents. Yes, Columbia’s far off, and it might feel like nobody’s really paying attention, but trust us, we will be. And voters will certainly remember next time if they haven’t seen you since the last time you asked for their vote.
The same holds true on the county level. Don’t forget the folks who put you in office, your friends and neighbors, can just as easily vote you out next time around if you don’t live up to expectations. County leaders, whether on a county council or school board, will be facing some tough decisions of their own in coming years, not least of which will be a property tax reassessment in 2014 that could mean drastic changes to district and county budgets. That’s in addition to hard choices about, just for one example, the expiring RIDE tax for road construction and continuing debates about school attendance lines.
It may not seem like it right now, but the race to get or keep a seat in leadership is the easy part. Now it’s time to stop talking and start walking. We’ve got high hopes for all of those elected Tuesday. All we can ask is that you work hard, do your best and truly labor for the betterment of our communities. Congratulations on getting this far. Now prove that the voters made the right choice. We’ll be watching.