Swift action needed to restore confidence in our government

The midterm elections are over. The relentless barrage of political commercials has ended.

Politicians have spent enormous amounts of money to disparage their opponents, tainting those ultimately elected to serve. These attacks undermine the confidence citizens have in their government.

Political operatives may argue that seeking to destroy a candidate's character and credibility is nothing new in American politics. This does not make it right, and it's particularly troublesome in a hyperpartisan climate where too many people have lost faith in our political system.

Candidates may assert that sustained and over-the-top hyperbole is necessary because their opponents will engage in those tactics. This endorses a political race to the bottom.

Others will argue that winning is the most important thing because you must get into office to make a difference, and that cannot be done without negative advertising. This point of view is understandable but does not negate the damage done by rhetoric that seeks to destroy candidates running for office.

This does not suggest that those entering the political arena should not be ready for a fight. Politicians must be able to define their opponents and their perceived flaws in the media because drawing such contrasts are crucial during a campaign.

However, political candidates should exercise a degree of restraint because somebody is going to win an election, and it's best that the character of a politician is not irreparably tarnished before they take office.

The bombardment of callous and consistent negative advertising has a particularly significant impact on the small business community. Small business owners and entrepreneurs who are not confident in their policymakers' ability to manage the economy or govern our state may be less likely to make investments in Illinois. They may be less inclined to grow their businesses here and might ultimately decide to move their companies elsewhere.

Now that the elections have concluded, policymakers must focus on restoring the confidence of small business owners in our government. Toning down the rhetoric, while passing legislation that will foster economic growth, are excellent ways to start. There are fundamental issues such as the rising costs of health insurance which policymakers should proactively address. Politicians should also work to cut unnecessary red tape that impacts the ability of small businesses to succeed.

Politicians should use the upcoming fall veto session to enact and fund a program that provides relief to local chambers of commerce devastated by the pandemic because it's crucial to support the local chambers that support small businesses. They should pass legislation that provides small businesses struggling to find employees incentives to hire formerly incarcerated individuals.

This will support businesses, provide opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals, proactively address public safety and reduce the costs of recidivism. By advancing and enacting these two initiatives during the short legislative session this month, politicians can demonstrate their ability to legislate and lead in the wake of the election.

Given the divisiveness in our country and tremendously contentious election, politicians should unite behind policies that will foster a strong Illinois economy. This should be done quickly and openly, so Illinois citizens can feel confident in their politician's ability to govern and lead.

By embracing and listening to constituents, including the small business community, and taking concrete actions to address their concerns, politicians can send the right message as we head toward 2023.

• Elliot Richardson is co-founder and president of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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