It’s the morning before the switch to daylight savings here in the Central Time Zone, 241 days until election day in every state and congressional district in these united ones. But my name is on a ballot in a little over a week from this writing. Nobody outside of the precinct in our township can vote for me in our state’s Democratic primary election. But there is no one else in that race to vote for, anyway, because no one in their right mind wants the job.
This is not my first go-round. While I wound up doing the work, anyway, I had sat out the last term, after a streak of five unopposed elections, hoping that someone would step up and take it. No one did, or would, so I told our Township Chair that I would run again. The job is a two-year term of figuring out where our voters live (canvassing), registering voters, getting their butts to the polls (GOTV) and seeking out willing election judges. In the parlance of the media narratives, social and mainstream, I am part of the Democratic Party establishment. I attend monthly meetings of our Township party organization and — when I am an elected committeeman — attend and vote in our County party conventions. I administer our Township party organization’s Facebook page and often follow the rumblings and ramblings on Twitter.
The town where my wife and I have lived for the last quarter century, give or take, is a pretty small bedroom community with no great industrial tax base to speak of. An old railroad town set between a state highway and a US route, its largest business is a non-profit hospital. It is the only place I had ever lived where mayors and I were on a first-name basis. Once upon a time, I worked with the current mayor on our Village Board’s Environmental Concerns Commission until I resigned from the commission to start publishing a newspaper every two weeks. The paper is gone now, after a decent four-year run, while the mayor hosts an occasional coffee in the Village Hall where residents can discuss issues, concerns, rumors or any combination thereof on a given Saturday morning. So, I took advantage of an opportunity to hang out, listen, maybe ask a question or a few and nibble on whatever baked goods the mayor had whipped up for the occasion, which he genuinely enjoyed doing.
There was only one other guy in the mayor’s office as I arrived, with one other fellow joining us shortly after my arrival, and the conversation stuck to predictable hyper-local topics: negotiations with the hospital about a downtown redevelopment plan, an upcoming fire district tax referendum, the search for a recreational cannabis dispensary to move into a new commercial zone on the edge of town and the village’s upcoming centennial year celebrations. There were some reminiscences of old policy fights that led us to where we all were on these and other civic visions but without the vitriol that was part of the history. Just standard local stuff and then we went our separate ways after about ninety minutes and no one else showing up.
For what it’s worth, I am simply not seeing in real life what is going on in Facebook and Twitter or on the 24/7/365 cable news channels. That could be because I’m active in Democratic Party politics in a traditionally conservative economically diverse suburban Republican region where the hardcore teabaggers have been an established part of the scenery, under one name or another, forever. Or it could be evidence of opportunistic or even nefarious media narratives. But what I find in actual personal verbal communications, where we can look each other in the eyes and hear the tones in each other’s voices, are intelligent discussions about policy priorities with occasional nods to campaign charisma (“electability”) but solid determination, at least among those relative many of whom approach these things seriously, to take down Trump and any and all Republicans up and down the November ballot.
At this larger moment in American history, what the entire media narrative and the unfortunate people who depend on it for news and information, misses is that the only place there is any policy debate at all on the American political landscape is within the Democratic Party, because all there really is anymore on the Republican side is hate, resentment and tax cuts and where it is always better to be “right” than smart.
We need to approach our problems with reason and ask more questions regarding alleged or otherwise proposed solutions. Civil discourse has never been without its headwinds but it is a little late in the game for so many of us to start learning this. As a civil creature, humanity in its groupings tends to value faith over reason, or certainty over curiosity. No individual is a full-time part of a monolith, however. Sound logic and reasoning must be consciously applied and vigilantly encouraged in everyday conversation, more than we might want to invest in the effort.