I am young, and I am a West Virginia Democrat. Among various tenets, being a West Virginia Democrat means that you believe the government should be in the business of helping people and not in the business of hurting or hindering individuals; that we should and can return good-paying jobs to West Virginia, while we secure the ones we still have. I also believe in compromise.
Compromise, however, is not a dirty word as some have made it out to be. Through compromise, our democracy functions; without it, it fails.
Many Republicans and some Democrats will criticize me for these words. Republicans will frame this as a “liberal trick.” It is not. I, as a West Virginia Democrat, believe in working with Republicans so that we might achieve mutual goals, and work on those on which we do not agree. Democrats will say that I am not a “real” Democrat because I don’t toe the party line. Well, they are right, I don’t. I do not believe in everything in which the national Democratic Party believes. As a West Virginia Democrat, I recognize I have different beliefs from the national party, but I love that difference.
National Republicans and Democrats alike who stick their nose in West Virginia don’t understand our state. I think it is fine that they don’t understand us. They were not blessed with the experience of growing up in the mountains, where your neighbors are friendly and you know most of the people you pass on the street. West Virginia is different and we can’t expect everyone else to understand it.
In a small state, with tight-knit communities, we understand what it means to work with other people. Business isn’t always easy, especially when you go to the same church as the person with whom you are trying to make a deal, or working with someone whose child is in the same class as your kid. There are always disagreements. But, in the communities of West Virginia, we know that above all else we have to work with our neighbors, even if we do not always agree with them, because, if we don’t, we won’t get anything accomplished. This inclination to work with others is lacking on the national political level. The notion that you must detest those on the other side, as evil, unpatriotic, or stupid is a scourge upon our society. When we fail to work with each other, we become weaker as a whole. In order to maintain our American strength, we must have the West Virginia sensibility of compromise.
There are always going to be different groups of people, with different interests and different desires. This is a stalwart thread in the fabric of this great nation. What makes our country strong is that we can all voice those wants and goals, and work with each other to achieve them.
We must stand up for ourselves, our way of life, and our history. As election season nears, I implore all West Virginians to see through the veiled trickery of out-of-state money and interest groups. As we think about who is to lead our cities, counties and state, remember that compromise is good. Compromise allows all of us to get the results we need, even though we might not always get the results we want.
Max Gottlieb, a native of Charleston, is a recent graduate of Georgetown University and will attend Washington and Lee School of Law in the fall.