OPINION – It may only be an “off-year” election, but the political signs have been sprouting up across Southern Utah like weeds after a rainstorm.
With only city council and mayoral offices at stake, it may be tempting to sit this election out and wait for the next general election in 3 years. But that would be a mistake.
These local elections are one of the last remaining places where our franchise as voters is still effective. We have a good variety of candidates running this year and this means that voters will have real choices.
It’s a real contrast from the kind of one-dimensional “choices” we’re offered during the general election. Instead of having to be content with a mere two choices that agree on basics but fight over minor details, in the local races we have a marketplace of choices. We can choose from candidates with their own philosophies and their own principles.
That’s something that voters are simply not trusted with during a general election year.
Look at the national GOP and its current schizophrenic attempts to purge those politicians whom it labels “too Libertarian.” The reason those so-called Libertarian candidates frighten GOP big shots like Chris Christie should be obvious. They offer a principled alternative to the corrupt premises of the two parties that more often behave as one party.
Those who choose to vote in the local primaries should be able to do so without having to keep one hand free to hold their noses. These candidates are accessible. We don’t have to navigate a phalanx of security personnel nor do we have to approach them with a large check in hand in order to be heard.
It’s possible to actually sit down with your local city council and mayoral candidates and have a one-on-one conversation that provides real insight into their principles and goals. This means that we can ask the kind of penetrating questions that require real contemplation rather than pat answers or platitudes. Even so, we must be careful to distinguish between substance and feelings.
Joseph Sobran offered this sound advice, “I’m always wary of those who want to make politics an index and test of “feelings.” Politics is about power. Every law imposes obligations on us, obligations backed by force. Law should therefore be fair, impartial, and dispassionate, designed by reason, not impelled by emotions.”
It’s encouraging that civic organizations and even local political party leaders have put together candidate luncheons, forums, and debates.
Blake Cozzens as the Chair of the Iron County Republican Party has done a remarkable job of putting a series of 10 questions to each of the candidates in the Cedar City races. These are not softball questions, but serious queries about how local tax monies are used, what the city’s role should be in regards to property ownership, subsidizing downtown businesses, and the candidate’s stance on issues like asset forfeiture, among other things.
This type of questioning reveals more than just the superficial stances that are often heard during public debates. It provides insight into the basic principles, or lack thereof, which each candidate brings to their race. It allows a voter to more thoroughly vet who deserves his or her vote. This is a much wiser approach than simply making a decision at the voting booth based mainly on name recognition.
During off-year elections, voter turnout is disturbingly low. Even with two years of campaigning leading up to last year’s primary election, voters in Washington County could only muster around 20% turnout. If more people recognized the kind of influence they have at the local level, there would be a lot less voter apathy.
Of course, apathy affects a lot more than simply the outcome of elections. It affects everything that takes place during the rest of the year as well.
In his essay “Politics”, Aristotle spells out the role we should play when he writes; “The citizen in an unqualified sense is defined by no other thing so much as by sharing in decision and office.” This doesn’t mean that we have to actually hold office; it means that part of our responsibility as citizens is to participate in our own governance. Voting is but a single facet of our citizenship.
The other participation includes actively attending public meetings, regularly communicating with those in office, and tirelessly working to inform ourselves and, by extension, those around us.
The difference between good local government and great local government often depends on whether we are participating in it or not.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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