Do some research, pay attention, and hold elected officials accountable.
With the campaign season upon us, it is again the time to get prepared for voting. This year, the primary election in Minnesota will be held earlier than usual… on Aug. 14. The general election will be on Nov. 6.
As one who believes that the two major parties — both nationally and in Minnesota — have gone too far either to the left or to the right, I will probably need more education than most to decide my vote. My history is that I generally favor the more conservative position but that I support more liberal programs when convinced that they provide long-term benefit.
No party pie
And being an avowed independent, I tend to detest those who eat from the party pie (from either side) without any question.
The salvation to our political system is that it is those of us who are in the middle who often decide the winners. After the diehard Republicans cast their one-third or so votes and the registered Democrats cast their one-third or thereabouts, it is often those of us who are in the middle who decide elections.
If you believe, as I do, that the two parties have gone too far off track, than I suggest that it is those of us who are more to the middle who are to blame. We — and I include myself — haven’t become involved. To begin with, we haven’t participated in the caucuses where the candidate selection process begins. That is where those who have the far right and far left inclinations position themselves as a way to advance their thinking. With them, it seems there is no middle ground. No wonder there is gridlock.
Different at the local level
The above commentary represents a view on national and statewide politics. At the local level, the county board, city council and school board governing bodies have a much better record of serving the public good… of providing services and keeping watch over the expenses. That, I believe, is simply because these local government units are non-partisan.
There have been a number of controversial issues during the years that I have been a county commissioner. The board has often had split votes on an issue but that has been where the division ends. When your position doesn’t prevail you accept that it probably wasn’t the right one. And, when your position does prevail, you don’t stick it in anyone’s face. You live with the decision, whatever it is, and you move on. Good government is accomplished by give and take. It doesn’t need a scoreboard.
Elected officials need be able to work together… to cooperate and to collaborate and not be locked into a position. And they need to have a vision for the long-term good rather than what might simply be beneficial in the next election.
Not the smartest
As a candidate for public office, you quickly accept the fact that there are many people who are smarter and more capable than you. But because of their personal situations — business, job, family, or other considerations, including an unwillingness to expose themselves to the possibility of being rejected at the polls — they won’t or can’t run for the office.
Seeking public office, regardless of the level, is a humbling experience. Only those who have put their neck on the line and been through a tough, contested campaign can fully understand the emotions that are felt when the ballots are finally counted on election night.
Local elected positions involve significant sacrifice. For example, to be able to commit time to be a county commissioner, you really need to be either self-employed or unemployed. There aren’t many employers who can afford to have a top employee be gone for the time that being a commissioner requires. By contrast, if you are self-employed, your business/farm will be affected.
The point to this is that people should be at least a little appreciative of those who want to serve. But do some research, pay attention to what the candidates say and then hold them to it.
Thoughts expressed in this column are those of the author and are not necessarily a reflection of the opinions of the other members of the Polk County Board.