Islander's Blog

Local politics

The candidate drove around town, collecting his yard signs. This was very early in the morning, the results were in from Tuesday’s vote, but Wednesday had yet to really begin.

There is nothing that annoys people faster than not retrieving your yard signs. This is something the candidate had learned from more than a few years in local politics. It is easy to make enemies over small things. Politeness counts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I spent the last few months working to help the candidate try to become this island’s next state representative. But this is not about winning and losing. This is really not even about one particular candidate. So no names.

This is about sane politics versus crazy politics. This is about asking your neighbors, those that know you and those that do not, to vote for you. Local politics are as simple and profound
as that.

Someone once said that American-style democracy worked best some 200 years ago, when the voters were the well-informed and well-meaning farmers and merchants of New England. If that is true, then the act of asking your neighbor for his vote is the building block of this nation.

And so the candidate and his volunteers handed out brochures, held signs, shook hands and made phone calls. And on a clear, bright, autumn Tuesday, his neighbors came to the polls and cast their votes.

Meanwhile, on CNN and Fox and MSNBC, the insanity of the presidential election was in full roar. Everything was hype. And it seemed like everyone bought the hype. Republican friends extolled me with stories of how thrilled they were when their candidate picked a completely-unknown political neophyte as his running mate. Democrats are sure their candidate is the second coming of JFK.

Both sides pointed to the other and leveled silly accusations. Wedge issues once again got in the way of real issues.

Meanwhile, the air was filled with the news of bank closings. And every day the paperboy brings more.

It found myself daydreaming on how quickly the late, great Tim Russert would have filleted these candidates, or at least forced them to give straight answers about what they know and what they don’t know.

Politics work better the lower you get down the scale. Maybe it’s because the issues are so concrete. Who will run the Steamship Authority? How will we protect our groundwater? These are things we can debate without the hype, or the faces of spin doctors filling television screens.

And so very early the morning after his defeat in the Democratic primary for state representative, the candidate drove around in his truck and collected his yard signs. He knew it was the right thing to do. In a small, but very real way, it was reassurance that at least on some level the system works.

Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said that all politics is local. We should be so lucky.

– John Stanton

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