As every election season begins to heat up our local Democratic Party looks around for viable political candidates. And typically there are never enough to fill all the available races. As a result many races are uncontested and sometimes the candidates who do run are not as strong as we would like. Unfortunately this is a pattern that tends to be self-perpetuating. Without viable candidates to put before the public the Party appears to be ineffective. There the many worthy folks out there who could be a valuable contributors to our efforts but they do not feel empowered to identify themselves as Democrats. And without them our Party is in fact much less effective than it would otherwise be.
I don’t write this to moan and whine about the situation but rather to perhaps get people worked up enough to do something about it. Too frequently we have depended on the charisma of one candidate or another to attract people into doing the sometimes grinding work of party building. This is not a recipe for long-term success. So what do we do?
It is well-recognized that the training ground for strong candidates is local government and public service. The better track record a person has as a public servant the more likely they are to have success as a candidate. So in the current crop of budding public servants, where are the Democrats? Why does it seem that this arena is so dominated by persons of the opposition? What gets them in there? I think the answer is one of motivation. Public service and especially volunteer public service can be thankless and there has to be some payoff that makes all that grief worth the while. Typically Democrats have passions and causes that get them into the ring. I submit that the opposition has more tangible motivations, power and greed. That may be stating it a little too bluntly but I think it captures what I mean. The opposition sees government as a means to perpetuate the accumulation of wealth for themselves and their peers and as a way to make sure that the people they favor are a bit more equal than those they don’t. When their day’s work is done someone in the power network is making a bit more money than they were before or some “undesirable” type of person has become less of a threat to the social order as they see it. Power and greed work and they always have.
At a local level this can go on “under the radar” because there are just not enough watchdogs to cover the territory. Even the media gets compromised because they aspire to become a part of the power network themselves rather than the champions of those who have no power. “Well, we’ve got trouble my friend, right here in River City….” The very fact of the absence of a viable Democratic opposition to the Republican-dominated local government leads me to a conclusion that the local level is a target-rich environment. As Democrats we need to get in there and find them. Attend the meetings of your City Council and other public boards and commissions. I have no doubt that what we find there will ignite the kind of passion for justice and integrity that motivates Democrats into public service.