That collective “Phew” rising up over our fruited plain is the national sigh of relief that the ugly politic season of 2020 is one for the books.
Not so fast.
We are officially in the year of the Municipal Election. Across Connecticut, hundreds of elected officials are weighing their re-election options. I hope, thousands more are seriously considering a challenge to the status quo.
Consider this: despite the vitriol and violence that infected the political landscape throughout 2020, voters returned 94 percent of incumbents to office. Connecticut re-elected 95 percent of its incumbents. The only national branch infused with new blood is the Presidency.
You can’t change the landscape until you commit to tilling it yourself. Cries of “foul” ring hollow if you all you do is yell at your screen, mutter to your spouse or rally to rail against “the man” – or woman. Facebook and Twitter are not the public square. Ad platform, therapist’s couch, stage, mirror, echo chamber, brag sheet, cesspool, maybe. But forums for mature, constructive debate and action they aren’t.
If we are to “unify,” the body politic needs to engage.
Sure, engagement requires sacrifice. The statement has become cliché. Frankly, though, the sacrifice is minor when weighed against the consequence of inertia – the erosion of the cornerstone of this country , which is the power granted to its citizens to chart the nation’s course. We need to think of that before we settle in to stream 16 seasons of Arrested Development.
As you consider a run, do your homework, know what you’re getting yourself into. I’m not talking just about time, although meetings can be excruciating. Read the state statutes governing your targeted board or council. If you’re intention is to change direction of a governing body, understand its legislative framework. Then, get the low down from incumbents on how the body practically functions.
Meanwhile, temper, but don’t abandon, that inner rebel. Our ideals are the raw material that fuel our governing bodies and should never be dismissed except in their most extreme state. But you’re going to be one of many. If your opinions deserve a fair hearing, so do you others’. Listen and probe respectfully, then vote in an informed and principled manner. Your goal must be a consensus that best reflects the values of your community, not your personal agenda.
Finally, don’t limit your focus to public offices. Consider your town’s political committees. Executives of these organizations many be as entrenched as the pol heading up the town council or board of ed. Dare to clean house.