November 24, 2011 —
As Thanksgiving approaches with its reminder of the merits of gratitude, the embers of a particularly vigorous election cycle are still fading. Emotions always run high during election season, stress is rampant, and there are many whose first thought may be that they are just grateful that it’s over. But we think there are some positive things to be grateful for as well, and would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks to the participants and our gratitude for what we see as some heartening developments with regard to local political life.
First, we would like to thank everybody who ran for office. Everybody. The ones whose policies we agree with and those with whom we disagree, the ones who won and those who lost. Local political office does not in general come with the type of high compensation and promise of lucrative post-office employment that is found in Washington, DC, and for the most part those who agree to become local candidates are expressing a willingness to take on a great deal of stress and contribute a great deal of time for little material gain.
All the candidates also had to be willing to risk exposing themselves to one of the least favorite of human experiences: rejection. And even those who won will probably find that they have contracted for a few years of vitriolic criticism from a significant subsection of their townspeople. So we would like to thank winners and losers alike for the type of courage it takes to face that kind of public disagreement.
Thanks for the sheer energy it takes to run, for the door-to-door canvassing, the meet-the-candidates meetings, the letters to the editor and, of course, the special participation of those whom we invited to join our online and WJFF radio debates.
Thanks to the members of the electorate as well, not only for exercising their rights by getting out to vote, but for their contributions to our letters to the editor page. We normally average four or five letters a week; in the last couple of weeks, including the late online-only submissions, we stopped counting at 50 election-related letters. People care, and they took the trouble to express what they think and share it with other voters.
One thing we found particularly interesting about this election season, and for which we are grateful, is the degree to which people have been thinking and acting innovatively about challenges to the status quo in general and to the two-party system in particular. That system has clearly become untenable on a national level, and efforts like the creation of the local Rural Heritage Party are to be applauded as possibly the beginnings of a movement to start making a change from the roots up. The fact that only three candidates listed on the Rural Heritage line nosed their way past the finish line on this first try (a couple of other races could still tip, with absentee ballots uncounted as of press time) does not necessarily belie that conclusion. Introducing political brands and new political faces takes time and exposure. We expect to see some of these challengers participating in the public discourse regarding town governance over the coming years, and would not be surprised to see alternative candidates become a stronger force in the next election. And remember that sometimes the most important reason to run for office is not to win, but to change the conversation.
We doubt there’s anybody who is ever satisfied with the outcome of each and every race in any election year. But we are excited and encouraged by the level of participation and excitement that we saw this year, and we look forward hopefully to the performance of the new administrations, and the developing possibilities of election cycles in years to come.