Boy I knew the political season is about to go into full swing! Plum Island Coffee Roasters finally put out the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe! While the tourists were here, I was getting’ tired of walking in and seeing Boatyard Brew (what is in that thing anyway?) But now, with his political sign prominently out and his baked goods juicy and bursting out the seams; I knew it meant regular, happy visits to the PICR.
So, knowing that we have a sizeable roster of politicians out there for city councilor and school committee; I thought it would be nice to remind everyone about some of the basic ground rules.
One, personal attacks are a no, no. It may work on the state level and it may work on the National level; but when it’s about your fellow Newburyport citizen; you may be 100 percent correct and have personally seen some people’s closets full of skeletons: but it leaves a bad taste on everyone’s mouth and usually ends up slapping mud on you too. It is tough for long-term residents because we ‘do know’ but casting a happy smile and an air of forced innocence can go a long way in setting the right tempo.
Two, political attacks on issues is a yes, yes. So many on both sides of the aisle like to feed on hate-filled blogs and websites; but you’ve got to exercise some discernment and stick with the issues. Identify the solid issues, and then find out what side the candidates have positioned themselves. If you disagree with them, “go get ’em!” but of course, don’t slide down into Rule Number One. Believe it or not, our Democracy demands division, which generates debate and then somewhere along the line, the truth comes out; and the consequences we will enjoy (or suffer) if one candidate does win over the other; and then the voter can make an informed decision. Yes, it’s messy; but that’s the way it’s been done since our country was born and the nation is still here.
Three, if candidates or their supporters do drift into personal attacks; then it’s all ‘fair in love and war’. Now the personal attack and the attacker and the object of the personal attack all become part of the public debate and you can see how negatively this can affect a community. Pray no one crosses that line this year!
Four, local politics is strictly a non-partisan issue. Because we are buffeted by 24/7 national and international news; and with CNN, FOX & MSNBC 24/7 partisan politics; we can easily forget that more than likely (in fact, just about all the time) your party affiliation is useless in the community. The big parties focus on big issues; but Newburyport has lots of tiny to mid-size challenges in which more than likely both parties will simply ignore. Highly charged issues on the national level are stupid dumb on the local level. I noticed that over the years, that some Newburyport politicians have chosen to become un-enrolled temporarily because so many citizens can’t disassociate local politics from party affiliations.
Which brings me into Number Five, which is a re-emphasis on Rule Number Two: find out what the issues are in Newburyport and watch the candidates as they take positions around the challenges that we, as citizens, are facing here in the city.
Now, I know that most people here in town along with City Hall and along with some of the candidates are going to disregard the ‘rules’ to some degree. Regardless of what happens, the power of the citizen is to ‘watch’. You don’t have to be eloquent, you don’t have to have a library degree in research or a doctorate in political science; all you have to do is, on election day, ‘form an opinion, and, in Newburyport’s election; decide which holes on the ballot you’re going to darken.
It’s this fact that makes the pols sweat – and it’s your power alone.
May the race begin!
PS. There is a sixth rule (though unfortunately rarely used), which largely preserves good mental health; don’t take things too seriously and have a little fun – maybe even have a sense of humor! (Horrors!)