08/06/2012 05:28 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2012

My Kind of Politician

I just met a politician who walks her talk, and whose talk makes sense. What a concept. Actually, more than a concept, she's amazing. She's a real politician, in a real town, with clear vision.

Shelleen is running a political race in Sheridan, Wyoming. Today, the town was inundated by smoke from "up Montana-way" and you couldn't even see the Big Horn Mountains nearby. My eyes hurt, and throat burned, and it was hard to concentrate on anything. Except Shelleen, with her quiet dignity and her common sense mind.

First of all, she's fearless. And fearless she must be, because she's proposing the real all-American platform that combines fiscal conservation with a live-and-let-live attitude. Tolerance is a classic Western perspective, one that embraces diversity. And diversity is part of what enriches this country and makes us strong. But tolerance is under fire these days, and the acrid smoke of bigotry (like the heavy haze from the fires to the north) chokes our life force.

I'm no historian, but I'd like to believe that American history has a glorious tradition of common sense politics. You know, the kind of politics that does math the way we learned grade school. The basic math of addition and subtraction, where revenues and expenses balance.

Sure, America has a long and varied experience with leaders whose agendas diverged from the ordinary person's interests (and whose math skills defied reason). But we are a country built on basic principles, and we can produce able leaders despite the horrendous toll often exacted by the political system.

Up here in Wyoming, they tell me that politics is about people, and votes are cast according to relationships. This bodes well for Shelleen because she cares about people, and takes her time to listen. She's looking to safeguard the future and care for her community. She's confident and humble, and hopefully her ward will see her as a fair candidate making deliverable promises.

The risk is always that the rest of us, who chose not to face the challenges of direct service in representative democracy, will justify our abstinence by attributing larger-than-life qualities to those who plunge into the open political process. Maybe we think we can rest a little easier because "others can do it better" which means we don't have to try. But that's not the kind of democracy this nation's founders envisioned. And today, we are almost always sorely disappointed and suffer from our delusions.

To me, the issue of electing a representative is one of common sense and trust. I'd want to elect a politician like Shelleen who I'd trust to apply common sense to succeed where she can and accept the limitations where she can't. I'd trust her to own up to what's not possible or constructive, and remain accountable to reality. As a business-woman, her math is sound and I see that she has a healthy respect for budgets and the bottom line. As a citizen, I'm delighted that she's not interested in what happens in my, or anyone else's, bedroom. As a person, I'd want to vote for someone whose way of life seems to reflect the values I hold dear, and whose talk is direct and clear.

If I lived in Sheridan, I'd vote for Shelleen because I trust in her common sense. But I'm not from Sheridan, and so I watch this race with an impersonal interest yet personal inspiration. For now, I'm just passing through and looking for the mountains despite the smoke. I know they're out there and I trust they'll reappear. Likewise, I'm looking forward to Shelleen's primary even though I know she can't be my elected representative. Somehow, I feel better knowing that she has a real chance to serve this town and clear the air.