The first time I met Rep. Joe Neguse, he didn’t hold the title of lawmaker. Years later, Neguse is now one of the most powerful Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
If you know Neguse, you won’t be surprised. It seems like most people who have had the opportunity to meet him have extremely positive things to say. Understanding why is not hard. Just take a look at some of what Neguse and his team have accomplished in April alone:
- They helped secure $9 million in solar research funding for his district university
- They held a town hall in Kremmling to learn about water, wolves and wildfire
- They toured the post office in Steamboat after locals expressed concerns
- They visited Minturn to discuss water issues
- They welcomed veterans home
- They helped break ground in Gypsum for a new skate park
Meanwhile, Neguse and his team were forced to navigate the additional challenges of racially charged death threats by an out-of-district gun enthusiast.
It’s easy to be cynical and suggest that Neguse’s on-the-ground game is due to higher ambitions, and of course, he has those. But given his inspiring presence in a politically tough era, isn’t his kind of ambition exactly the kind we should seek to promote? If so, why aren’t more elected officials, specifically Democrats, emulating his approach?
Without a doubt, Neguse crushes his competition. If rank is the indicator of success, Neguse’s rapid ascent so early in his career is a stark reminder of how respect for others and hard work can still pay off in the real world — even if it doesn’t earn one the internet infamy that some elected officials seem to so desperately crave.
Similarly, if the effectiveness of lawmaking is an indicator of success, Neguse currently landed third in the entire U.S. Congress, another impressive feat for someone so young. In combination, it’s tough to argue that fighting fire with fire is the only path forward when one of the most powerful people in America has cruised to the top with competence and civility.
This got me thinking. At the beginning of the year, I asked the question, “Who deserves more attention, Lauren Boebert or Joe Neguse?” The premise of the column was to challenge our societal obsession with antics over substance and to pledge to do my small part to help tip the scales back toward conditions most favorable for a successful democracy.
But what I didn’t think to ask at the time was why so many of us can’t seem to turn away from promoting the train wrecks, even when we know they’re playing us. Worse, I can’t help but wonder why so many lower-ranking Democrats continue to insist that pouring gas on the flames is the only way to go when so much evidence points in the other direction.
In this way, highlighting Neguse and his April engagements is a deliberate choice and one that I challenge others to follow. While Neguse hasn’t ruffled any feathers or bombastically pandered for attention on social media (Neguse arguably has one of the most boring social media feeds ever, making it instantly one of the most interesting), he has offered a refreshing continuity of work over time.
In other words, Neguse has proved himself to be a quintessential public servant, and for this reason alone he deserves to be talked about as much or more than those seeking stardom.
The trick, of course, is convincing a nation chock full of aspiring TikTok personalities that valuing respect for others and grit on the ground is more valuable a currency than pithy takes and digital hearts. Reversing this trend will be no small feat, but offering up more examples of powerhouse success stories such as Neguse might help to provide some incentive.
Elected officials are first and foremost public servants, not ethically dubious kings and queens. They work for us, not us for them. They shouldn’t seek to be TV personalities, nor do they deserve our eyeballs or thumbs for pushing their brand of manufactured outrage. And if candidates or officials display these traits, voters should immediately reject them outright — no matter the side of the aisle from which they come.
Instead, elected officials should be kind, smart, involved in their community and extremely effective lawmakers. Without a shadow of a doubt, Neguse is the epitome of this combination. Coloradans of any political stripe should be proud to call him ours, and politicians seeking true success might want to consider adopting more of his approach.
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