Christmas season is here! Although in California it can feel much different in the inland deserts and sun-kissed coastal cities than it does in the snow-capped Sierra Nevada, it should be a time of unity for us all. May its lessons of love, warmth, charity, and family inspire California politics this month and in our future.

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Sacramento inspires strong feelings, especially among Conservatives who often feel voiceless in state-level politics and are reduced to complaining about, not solving, the problems they see. Complaining is ok! Identifying problems is important and the first step toward change. But, despite the Democrat stranglehold on Sacramento, opportunity exists everywhere for Republicans. This year, invest yourselves in school boards, city governments, counties, coaching, mentoring, and church. State politics is not the end-all, be-all of life. Participate where you can. There you will find hope.

To the Democrats, whose power has been little checked for decades, look charitably upon your Republican colleagues, constituents, and their ideas. Your state-level political power is near absolute, but that does not reflect the political makeup of the state itself. Millions of Republicans live and work beside you, and you may find some wisdom in their beliefs, if you let yourself. Approaching these ideas with an open mind and open heart may lead to greater political unity in our state, a goal often discussed but rarely achieved. Seek opportunities to hear all voices.

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For everyone this Christmas season, immerse yourselves in your families and friends. After the individual, the family is the fundamental unit of government. Strong families are critical to healthy politics. Tend your own garden, fill it with hope and love, this season and throughout the year. Forgive slights, heal old wounds, mend broken relationships, build up others. Let Christmas be a catalyst for renewal in the year to come.

Lastly, this Christmas, for all believers, let us love and honor Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate on this holiday. All the beauty of the season, the love, the charity, the grace, and forgiveness we hope to emulate are the values of Christ himself. The lessons, wisdom and ultimate truth found in the words of the Bible cannot be surpassed.  Lean on them this Christmas but also every single day of the year, with your friends, families, coworkers, and especially, with those who disagree with you politically.

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In my many years serving in the legislature, I found a sincere desire to improve California in all my colleagues, regardless of their politics. Our differences reflected different approaches to governance but started with the same hope of a brilliant future for our state.

President Lincoln was confronted after the Civil War by a woman who hoped to see the South crushed for its secession. Lincoln said, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

May the lessons of the season inspire us all to a politics where we strive to find common ground and destroy our enemies by turning them into our friends.

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Merry Christmas, California.

Senator Ted Gaines (Ret.) was elected to represent the Board of Equalization’s First District. He is a leading taxpayer advocate, defender of Prop. 13, and is committed to providing trustworthy and transparent representation for nearly ten million constituents in 34 counties of northern, eastern, and southern California. For more information, visit www.boe.ca.gov/Gaines.

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Ted Gaines
Author: Ted Gaines