Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Partisan Politics and Human Nature

I have made much in this space about how the Board of Education race is a nonpartisan race and should be respected as one. Not everyone agrees. Probably the nicest thing someone has said is that I am deluded, if that tells you anything.

I do understand that this year's presidential election puts horrific pressure on local races because of the negative influence of the Republican candidate. Trump's patently racist statements, which stir up fear and anger as a way of solidifying support for his candidacy, are more than unappealing. They are proof positive that he is downright dangerous as a motivator of the worst kind of behavior.

For some this has translated into a deep desire to know where local BOE candidates stand on Trump and his message. And, if this is what is most important to them, they have every right to ask those questions.

As for me, I haven't seen any convincing proof that any of the BOE candidates are of the same stripe as Trump. If I had I would have mentioned it here. It isn't that this issue doesn't matter to me. I simply haven't seen anything of this nature that alarms me. And I also don't believe that this is the only lens through which we should be evaluating Board of Education candidates.

I have read multiple think pieces on how politicians can't work across the aisle any more, going back eight years or more. Writers lament a lack of bipartisan cooperation. They recall leaders who could get things done through cooperation and finding consensus. We all look around ourselves and denounce partisan gridlock.

But what are we doing to change that?

A bunch of amazing people worked together to make change in the Howard County Schools. They lobbied for better legislation in Annapolis. They campaigned for better board of education candidates, and their work helped to bring forward better choices for the general election. And they chose to work together despite party differences, because they were united by a cause that was bigger than party affiliation.

A highly developed sense of partisan purity may make people inside your political bubble feel secure. But it does nothing to make change. A friend of mine said recently,

I actually have made more female friends in Howard County than I have ever had before, but I had to let go of the liberal superiority in the process.

Liberal superiority. Conservative superiority. "We know we are right!" "Never compromise!" "The other side is the devil!"

How's that working for you?

You can argue til the cows come home that you'll never let down your guard against the foe, but that argument won't change this truth of human nature: positive, lasting change doesn't come from the throw-down and the show-down. It comes from small steps, careful listening, and well-considered risks. It comes from compromise and willingness and stepping out of one's comfort zone.

I am not interested in people of either party whose idea of political discourse is gleefully throwing darts at the other side. If you take delight in watching the other guy squirm, that's all the delight you're going to get. It will not bring progress or improvement of any kind.

And when it comes to the BOE race, while you are busy throwing darts, there's a third "party" that stands to benefit: the ones who want things to remain exactly as they are. If Howard County voters can be distracted by a partisan "shootout at the OK corral", they'll take their eyes off of our shared community goal for better schools for our children.

If that happens, we all lose.



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