I don't know that I've gone here before on my blog. I mean, I did the post about my being in the parade. But just for the record, I'm vice chair of the Bonneville County Democrats. I ran sort of on a whim (don't run for political office on a whim, btw. More on that later). The party here is struggling with some . . . not in-fighting, but certainly some tensions between a couple of the executive officers. They wanted some new blood and so a couple of my friends asked me to run. I had been wanting to get more involved in local politics, and so I did. Imagine my surprise when I won. That's really not where I'm wanting to go, though.
I picked rather an interesting time to run, id est an election year. The entirety of my stint as vice chair so far has been sitting in on executive and central committee meetings as we try to decide how best to help our local candidates win their respective races. In case you didn't already know this about Idaho, we are a RED state. I mean really, really RED. For the first time in a long time in our county, we have several blue candidates running for different offices not only in our state and federal elections, but also right here in our county elections. It's rather exciting.
There's only one problem: no one seems to care. Let me tell you what I've learned about politics up to this point. Behind the scenes politics are painfully tedious. The committee meetings I attend drag on and on about who was in charge of getting what data to the state, how much money for this or that activity we have available, who's going to canvas the precincts, etc. It's tempting to sit and poke myself in the eye to break up the monotony. And yet, something I've also learned about behind the scenes politics are how important they are to getting the more visible things done. The vibe I get from most people who have been involved politically is that they donated some money, attended a rally or five, went to this or that fundraiser, etc. And while I don't want to discount those efforts (god knows the money they bring in is the bread and butter of our organization), there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make real change.
The unfortunate truth is that local politics are unromantic. People will go out and canvas for Obama or (gulp) McCain. But will they go out and canvas for Laun Cook? Will they take time out of their afternoons to go and register people to vote? Will they make phone calls for John McGimpsey (although John didn't mention needing phone calls this morning, but you get my point)?
I don't want to down play the importance of our national elected officials. But I also know that on a national level, it's really hard to feel like we're making a difference. My good friend puts this quote in the signature line of her emails: "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal" (Emma Goldman). I certainly understand such a sentiment. The last eight years of the Bush Administration have been some of the most painful and disasterous that the United States have ever seen. And indeed, there were certainly some stolen elections (not naming names *cough* Florida and Ohio *cough*). But now that I've been involved on a local level, I can assure you that voting does make a difference. So if you have a hard time getting jazzed up for the national elections, I don't blame you. I'm feeling pretty jaded myself. But folks, get involved locally. Gear yourselves up for mindnumbing discussions of finances and sunshine reports (which I know are important and I pay attention to, they're just so boring it hurts) but get in there and get a little dirty. It's not nearly as fun as a peace rally. But it will probably make a more immediate and noticeable difference. And we've got to start somewhere.