A post-election message from government contractors to America

Steve Kelman calls for civic renewal -- and more of the moderate culture of bipartisan respect that the federal IT community often embodies.

Image: Shutterstock / CloudyStock

As I am writing this Thursday afternoon, the presidential race is still not called, although it looks as if Biden will win.

The day after the election, Wednesday, I attended virtually a long-planned board meeting for a government contractor for whom I'm a board member. Some of the other board members are ex-military or Defense Department officials, while others are purely private sector. During one of our first breaks, a board colleague, a prominent centrist Democrat, noted that he had a good friend who was personally very close to Joe Biden. His friend told him that he was planning to contact Biden to urge him at the beginning of his administration establish what the friend called an Office of Civic Renewal to promote civility, public engagement and common purpose in our country.

His story occasioned a conversation among the group. It is fair to say that they were unhappy about the state of politics in the country. Almost all would call themselves moderate Republicans. My reading of them is that few or none like Trump, who they think violates civilized and democratic norms. Although I did not ask, I suspect that most voted for Biden. A number said they no longer thought of themselves as Republicans but as Republican independents.

They were upset that people in the U.S. had stopped talking with each other. They were upset at opposition to science. They were upset at extremism.

This could be a crucial moment for our country. Can we pivot away from bitterness and screaming toward a calmer tone? From some mixture of my tendency always to see the best in situations and (I must confess) my Democratic leanings, it seems to me that Biden is the perfect person to change our tone in a direction of mutual respect. If he is elected, we all need to give him a chance to set a new – or perhaps an older – tone.

It was the culture of northern Virginia that spoke at this board meeting yesterday. Northern Virginia is perhaps the epicenter of political decency in the U.S., Republicans and Democrats who are both moderate, and Republicans and Democrats who are friends. The country needs more northern Virginia.

So I hope that in what with some luck could be a turning point for our country, northern Virginia will contribute. Government contractors should organize to become more engaged in our civic life and in what my colleague’s friend called civic renewal.

Most of my readers know I am a proud Bostonian. But in this time I want to and do also count myself a proud northern Virginian.

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