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Vote 2020: Messy and Participatory Democracy

October 7, 2020 by Mountain Family

By Ross Brooks, CEO, Patient

My grandparents JoAnne and Jim Brooks were married for more than 60 years and never, save one-time, voted for the same United States Presidential candidate.  My grandfather, Jim, was a conservative business leader, who reliably voted Republican throughout his life.  My grandmother, JoAnne, was a liberal peace activist, who reliably voted Democratic throughout her life.  One of Grandpa Jim’s favorite sayings was “Grandma can vote however she wants, as long as I get to take the ballots to the ballot box.”  One of Grandma Jo’s favorite political acts was getting arrested for protesting nuclear power development in their small Midwestern town.  I remember the holiday story of my grandfather being forced to leave his corporate board meeting to pick up grandma from the local jail after she was arrested post-protest.  That was a fun Christmas dinner.

Despite their opposite and strongly held political views, Jim and JoAnne were lovingly married from their early 20s to the day they left the Earth.  They gave birth to three children, seven grandchildren, and 14 (and counting) great grandchildren. Their disparate political beliefs are alive and well as most of the extended Brooks family today continues to cancel each other’s votes with a roughly 50/50 split in the progeny’s Democratic and Republican voting patterns.  And while politics remains a hotly debated issue around our holiday dinner tables, it’s far from defining who we are.  Family, community, faith, curiosity, and our natural surroundings bind us together much more than who we vote for.  Yet we still discuss, listen, debate, and vote, and then repeat it all again each election cycle.

With the 2020 national, state, and local elections a month away, I’m reminded of Colorado’s own Mark McKinnon quote that “a messy participatory process is representative democracy at its best.”  Messy feels like the understatement of the year.  Participatory is our American democratic right and responsibility. 

As messy as it is, I encourage you to participate in the American democratic process.  Register to vote and vote in your local, state, and national elections.  Engage in curious, civil discussions with others who have different points of view.  If you’re tired of the social media cacophony agreeing with one narrow view on complex issues, seek human conversations and connections with people who are likely to vote for different candidates than you. 

Recently, a family member shared with me this short, impactful Ted Talk, on How to Lead Conversations With People That Disagree.  The video brings together 2016 Trump voters from Alabama and 2016 Clinton voters from California, and helps them connect, listen, discuss, and learn in meaningful human conversations much deeper than who they voted for.  While that may seem like time-zones away from where we live, I think it’s equally relevant in our Western Colorado communities across Garfield, Eagle, and Pitkin Counties.

Ultimately, your vote is your voice for those issues that you care most about.  Be curious, listen, discuss, debate, vote, and then repeat it all again each election cycle.  If my grandparents are any indicator, you might just make a new friend, reconnect with an estranged family member, or better yet, find a partner for life.

At Mountain Family Health Centers, we care for everyone regardless of their beliefs or financial position, treating all with the dignity and respect they deserve.  We’re pleased to provide affordable, integrated medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare to 21,000 patients in Pitkin, Garfield, and Eagle counties.  To make a medical, dental, or behavioral health appointment at Mountain Family, call us at 970-945-2840 or visit us online at www.mountainfamily.org.


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To provide high quality, integrated primary medical, behavioral, and dental health care in the communities we serve, with special consideration for the medically underserved, regardless of ability to pay.


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Glenwood Springs, CO 81601