You are failing.

Your bickering, name-calling and childish attitudes toward each other are embarrassing.

Your inability to truly understand just how damaging COVID-19 has been to the people of this nation, especially those who operate at the lowest block of the economic pyramid, should be proof that too many of you, elected “leaders” at the federal level, are not only out of touch, but you have also lost the ability to lead. And if you truly do understand the impact of what is happening and still have been unable to reach a collective stimulus solution to help those most in need, at a minimum, your compass is broken.

It is one more example of sandbox gridlock with nary an adult to be found.

When we were at the peak of the pandemic it seemed as though everyone understood the gravity of what we were facing as a society. Finding solutions as a unified nation was much easier. But it should not take a pandemic or a dire situation for that unification to continue. The pandemic is just the latest national crisis to bring this lack of federal leadership back into our collective disappointment.

The reality is that there are too many stubborn and uncompromising officials in the capital city.

True leaders don’t pout and resort to attacks on those with a different perspective. They find ways to lead. They find a common thread, no matter how slight it might be, and use it to begin the first stitch in a tapestry that can provide real and sustaining change, regardless of the obstacle being faced. We need more stitches, folks.

At this time last year, the U.S. was experiencing an unemployment rate near 3.5%. In August that rate stood at 8.4%; more than double what it had been just one year previous, and down considerably from the 14.7% rate that rocked the nation in April of this year.

But there has been a lot of damage since April. According to a study by the University of Illinois, Harvard Business School, Harvard University and the University of Chicago, an estimated 100,000 businesses have shut down permanently. Many of these were small businesses, the most hard-hit during the pandemic. This is particularly troubling in smaller communities where small business is the lifeblood. When the hardware store, restaurant, furniture and shoe store were forced to be closed because they weren’t considered “essential,” they were given a death sentence.

Meanwhile, the nearby big-box stores flourished, further accelerating the shift away from people working for small businesses. In the 1980s more than half of Americans worked at a small business. By 2017 that number had fallen to 47%. After COVID-19, that shift is sure to continue as more small businesses simply cannot survive.

It’s a big deal in smaller towns because small businesses are often the only business option for consumers and for employment. Their taxes help pay for street repairs, keep schools funded, and provide a reason for people to call a particular community a home.

Without small businesses, people will drive farther distances to find work. With more time spent on the road, that is less quality time with friends and family, which erodes the foundation of what makes a small community so strong. Tax support will be reduced and shifted to the residential markets. That means property taxes rise or school funding goes down. It is the beginning of a slow drip death for many small communities.

Finger-pointing is the default reaction as Republicans and Democrats have an endless supply of reasons why the other side prevented real and meaningful progress. But we are tired of that response. If leadership isn’t getting it done, then the rank and file U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives must be held accountable. They elect their leadership and if those folks are deemed the best of the best and are still unable to provide the leadership that is needed, then our most effective tool is issuing our congressional representatives and senators a failing grade and a pink slip in the form of a vote for somebody who will represent us.

The toxic environment, angry comments and grotesque hunger for power were never what voters envisioned when they sent elected officials to D.C. While there are still many passionate and caring representatives and senators in D.C., we need them to spearhead the positive change that is long overdue.

With Nov. 3 less than six weeks away, there most certainly will be a lot of promises made in the days ahead.

As voters, listen carefully to what is said. A promise made must be a promise kept. It is time to pay attention.

Our small towns, our schools, our neighbors and our country are all too important to be left in the control of sharp-tongued carnival barkers. The show must go on, but the players may need to change.

Keith Anderson is director of news for APG of East Central Minnesota.

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