Today I participated in the most important act that an American can do; I voted. This year’s election is what I’d call an off-off-year, in which I get to vote for Mayor, City Council, and a couple of Park and Recreation Board members.
What’s wrong with the picture?
My polling place at Martin Luther King Jr. Park is empty. A few dedicated souls silently vote, otherwise just the sound of crickets. Where is the hustle and bustle? Where are the long lines of voters quietly talking with strangers as if they were next door neighbors? You’d be hard pressed to imagine that my district has the highest voter turnout in Minnesota. That’s what is wrong with the picture.
The problem with Democrats is that we really don’t understand democracy. If we did, we’d be swarming all over the place. Unfortunately, Democrats just can’t seem to get out to the polls for local and midterm elections. We sit at home watching the returns while Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, and Greens go to vote. That is one reason that Republicans usually do better at the local and state levels. This isn’t just a Minnesota problem, nationwide Republicans tend to do better during off-year and midterm elections.
Democracy doesn’t work if only one team shows up, like baseball. Teams in the Major Leagues are fed players that have sharpened their skills in the minor leagues; Rookie, A, AA, AAA. Politicians, the pros who know what they’re doing, follow a similar route; party member, school board, park board, city council, mayor, governor, state office, federal office and, for a ballsy few, President.
Successful Pols know how to work with differing points of view, within and without their party. There are a few who jump the line, like the current Pretender, but they are unable to get things done. They’re ignorant of the intricacies of democracy; civil discourse and compromise. In Minnesota we once elected a boa wearing pro wrestler for Governor. By the end of his only term he had alienated the legislature and his supporters and was just waiting to be gone.
Local and state offices are where the action is. Our representatives rub shoulders with us, their constituents, daily. This is where every voter is intimately involved in deciding their future and the future of their neighbors. It is where the rubber meets the road and as Michael Bloomberg, ex-mayor of New York City once said, “If you need to get something done, ask a mayor.”
So why in hell would anyone ignore something so important as picking the people who will govern us, set our taxes, invest in public works, convince companies to move into the community, and pass laws concerning our education, environment, health, and livelihood?
Currently, the Democrats are at a disadvantage because they haven’t invested in their minor leagues. The Republicans have; it shows.
It all starts with me and you showing up to vote. I think of it this way, voting isn’t a chore, it’s the sacred duty; it’s a priceless privilege. Joseph-Marie, comte de Maistre, 18th century French lawyer, monarchist, philosopher and writer criticized the idea of democracy,”In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve.” He was right.
If we don’t take our elections seriously then we will get leaders who don’t take us seriously.
That’s what’s wrong with the picture.