Friday, September 9, 2011

No apathy zones here

Today is the last day for citizens in Idaho to register as candidates for office in local elections. Then, the election season will begin in earnest, and with it will come speeches, debates and a lot of shoe leather.

Local elections contrast starkly with the glitzy visual media fests and scripted non-debate debates that pass for national political campaigns today.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that proclaimed that corporations are people when it comes to paying for political advertising, it's no wonder that many Americans have and will find it difficult to distinguish between the mad and the well-meaning in politics. That difficulty produces a disturbing sense of powerlessness among voters.

However, when it comes to local elections, voters are not powerless. By and large, contested local races are No Apathy Zones. They are the best of grassroots democracy in which voters can get to know candidates and candidates can get to know voters personally.

In what are largely homegrown and poorly funded campaigns, a little effort goes a long way. With a few notable exceptions, local campaigns in even the most hotly contested local races are models of civility and courtesy compared to what Americans see on the national stage, where attack advertising and phone campaigns too often trade in scurrilous innuendo instead of facts and voter education.

It's easier for voters to get facts instead of fiction from local candidates who wish to be elected, shape public policy and spend the public's hard-earned cash. It's easier to discern whether a candidate's knowledge of government extends beyond knowing the location of City Hall.

The public needs smart, thoughtful and articulate candidates who can work well in the field of public policy and who offer more than the "just say no" solution to all government problems.

Let the races begin.

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