The votes have been counted, disputed, defended and are (as we speak) being certified across the country. But as the chaotic, clamoring, negative noise of this election begins to fade away — I must ask myself: What are my takeaways? 

This election clearly showed how divided we are in Utah and our nation. Many elected leaders no longer value the quality of a pleasing personality. The fact is the far left and far right are equally unpleasant. They both shout the slogan, “vote for me and I will fight for you!” They don’t get it. Voters are looking for leaders willing to work, not fight. Nothing happens until an action is put into motion.   

The election is over. It’s time to unite

My thinking is from the perspective of a lifelong, committed Democrat who believes in big ideas. Regardless of the letter behind my name, the challenge I’m trying to tackle, as someone who has always been willing to jump in, is what can I personally do for the next election? For most Utahns, the next ballot will be for local leadership in their cities and counties, and there are lessons to be learned that we can’t forget to apply to the next go-around.

Here are the conclusions I’ve landed on. 

First, the divide between us is reflected in our candidates. Good leaders are getting benched in favor of extremists on both the left and right. We need to take a few steps back toward the center and toward those willing to help build bridges across the ideological rift. 

Next, what tone are we willing to accept? Candidates spew noisy negativity because it works, and this should be our first clue that they are not problem-solvers. We must stop buying this so they will stop selling it. We don’t need another fight; we need leaders that will work for us.

We can’t fix a problem if we don’t accept that we have a problem. When problems are presented, I hear some elected fighters simply list the reasons the problem exists — leaving out the solution. To quote Elvis, we need “a little less conversation, a little more action.” 

Which leads me to my final point: we must to be willing to take a good look at the individuals running. Let’s elect leaders — regardless of party or other identifiers — who have a plan and are committed to working that plan. Each leader should have his or her own ideas and should be able to articulate them so we, the people, can thoroughly analyze them.  

In our opinion: Winter is here, and Utah’s homeless need help

I’m going to start applying these lessons to my biggest concern — an enormous problem for Salt Lake City, where I live. The shelter-resistant homeless population has not decreased, it’s increased. This is an issue that can be solved. Leaders must come together and make a plan that considers the needs of everyone involved: the people living it, residents, visitors and our downtown businesses. Once the plan and actions are developed, we must track progress. We need our city, county and state leaders to put their partisanship aside and make our cities safe for everyone. 

It’s time for those who won’t take action or think this crisis can’t be fixed to step aside. This Democrat wants to talk to problem-solvers. I don’t care what party they belong to or if we agree on absolutely everything. If we can believe it, we can achieve it.

David Ibarra is a leadership consultant, entrepreneur and author with a background in the hospitality and automotive industries. He is the founder of the Ibarra Foundation and serves as a board member for the Latino Leaders Network.