Mark W. Schwiebert

Mark W. Schwiebert

With less than two years until the next general election to determine our nation’s future, preparations are already in full swing.

Democrats currently face a field of 24 candidates – some clearly more serious than others – and have witnessed their first presidential debates on June 26 and 27.

Meanwhile, Republicans have two declared candidates – President Donald Trump, and William Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts; though others could climb into the ring depending on the direction the economy and pending investigations go over the next several months.

The Supreme Court has recently weighed in on two questions that could affect the 2020 elections and beyond. First, the court, by a 5-4 vote, rejected Trump administration arguments for a citizenship question on federal census forms — something that hasn’t been included on these forms since 1950. The court majority cited lack of evidence to support such a question, which could have undercounted a large number of folks living in the United States despite a constitutional requirement that all people living here be counted every 10 years.

Meanwhile, the court, again by a 5-4 vote, refused to interfere with partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, leaving this to state legislatures to decide. Such gerrymandering, ironically, allows elected officials to choose their voters instead of the other way around.

Both decisions will affect future elections, either in 2020 or — in the case of the census — for the next decade.

The divisions on the Supreme Court may reflect the divisions within our nation as well as here in the Quad Cities. I have encountered this personally in visiting with folks I’ve known and respected for years who seem conflicted by some of the strange twists and turns our nation has experienced over the last two years. Some, though disliking the nastiness of Trump’s daily tweets and chronic lying, nevertheless defend him because the economy seems to be doing relatively well; or because they like his criticism of illegal immigrants, the media or certain foreign foes.

Others see Trump as a danger to our nation, with his persistent attacks on historic allies, a free press, climate reform and many real or imagined enemies serving to create a toxic atmosphere leading us down a dark and troubling path.

Though I find myself much more aligned with the second group, both need to be considered.

There is an old saying that "Nature abhors a vacuum"; that is, if there is an empty space, something will fill it.

Politics can be like that as well. When people feel discomfort with a situation, they look for something or someone to blame — or to remedy the problem.

Looking to our Quad Cities area, we’ve got a history of trying to solve problems instead of just complaining about them. And, we’ve built a history over at least the last several decades of working together to make things better despite our differences.

This is evident in recent efforts by the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce to get passenger rail service to the Quad Cities "back on track" (pun intended?) Likewise, the Quad Cities Cultural Trust is now working to substantially increase the funds used to support six of our key cultural organizations; which include the Botanical Center, Symphony, and Putnam and Figge Art Museums. And public and private sector efforts continue to preserve and grow the Rock Island Arsenal.

We also pull together to face serous immediate challenges. Consider the $1 million recently raised locally to aid flood relief efforts following the devastating flooding, particularly in Iowa, extending from March through June of this year.

Such positive measures keep us looking to the future rather than getting mired in the past.

They also remind us daily that there is more that unites us than divides us.

These efforts offer a model for how government, working with individuals and private organizations, can provide a path to a better future for all of us — not just within our region but throughout our nation and world.

And such a collaborative and responsible spirit will also serve us well looking to the elections in 2020 and beyond, to what can be a long and healthy future.

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Mark Schwiebert, a lawyer, is a former mayor of Rock Island. Voices of the Quad-Cities, which features the work of local writers, appears on Tuesdays.