Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Moving On . . . Is Partisan Politics in Local Elections our New Reality?

“Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.”

~ Mark Twain

This week’s torment from my stance on Community Matters (and its use) came with a personal price tag. I watched helplessly as something that I created and nurtured over the past eighteen months became a political football. Rather than feeling good about taking a stand for justice for Community Matters, and myself, I became the target; my words twisted and misinterpreted. In the words of William Shakespeare, “This above all; to thine own self be true”. That mantra proved particularly difficult to follow this week. Through the sadness and disappointment in some people, I learned some difficult life lessons . . . but, I also learned the meaning of true friendship.

In addition to Primary Election Day on Tuesday, May 17, it is the Special Election to decide which supervisor candidate, Molly Duffy or Mike Heaberg, will fill the unexpired Tredyffrin Township supervisor term left vacant by Warren Kampf’s election to State Representative. Tomorrow I plan to list the special election candidates, school board, board of supervisor and municipal judge candidates. I will make available his or her resumes and encourage everyone to get out and vote.

Based particularly on this week’s events, I offer some remarks on the new reality of partisan politics in local elections. Why are candidates for local office forced to play party politics in order to have a viable candidacy? Why can’t they just run as themselves? Whatever happened to “vote for the person, not the party?”

In my perfect world, municipal politics would be free of partisan interests. Those individuals elected to serve, would do so for all the community. The interests of the people would always trump the political party the elected official represents. In my perfect political world. There are, of course, no perfect political worlds, and Tredyffrin Township is no different from the rest.

Politics has the ability to bring out either the good or the bad in mankind. The human desire for power, if unchecked, is evil. Evil partisanship can destroy the fabric of a local community.

Perhaps more appropriate than the label of ‘Independent’, I guess I would call myself an ‘Idealist’. As an idealist, I lament for a future of local nonpartisan elections, where there will victoriously emerge individuals whose intelligence, integrity, intestinal fortitude, character and non-alliance with special interests are beyond question. I wish for a future where important issues and candidate differences can be fairly discussed and openly debated.

In the end, voters will elect whomever they think will do the best job — or at least that’s how they should cast their ballots. But what’s often said about democracy? Despite its obvious faults, it’s the best system of governing. The people, the voters, get to decide who governs them. That will be the final word on partisan politics in local elections, and local government.

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  1. Brava Pattye. Vote for a candidate because you like the candidate, not because they have an R or a D next to their name. And maybe candidates will stop letting parties dictate strategy in running. Then again, strong candidates like yourself didn’t allow the party to dictate to you.
    I did 3 elections for school board. Kevin Grewell ran against me and another incumbent and ran on an idea — not against me. After the election, the members need to serve together. These political fights do not bode well for a board that works together. It takes 4 supervisor votes to get anything done. Where will those votes come from if campaigns spend this much energy alienating their opponents and incumbents?

    Thanks for doing this Pattye. To quote Andy Warhol, not exactly a literary giant, but pretty prescient on some things:
    “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. ”

    We are the change. If negative campaigning didn’t work, people wouldn’t use it.

    Ironic that being “independent” means you can’t get on the ballot. ….

    1. Thanks Andrea – you have no idea how much I appreciate your comment. It was always about issues for me – and for you and I think most board members in the past. Not sure about the future. It does seem to be getting more partisan, and as you point out, that is not good for the prospect of working together after the election.

      Part of the problem stems from the system we have – because you pretty much win or lose these local races in the primary, and that tends to mean you have to work with a party (there are exceptions, like my fist run in 1999, but it is very hard to get elected that way – I was able to do it only because of an issue that motivated a lot of voters). It would take a change of state law – maybe an open primary – to have any effect on that. Independents are really disinfranchised.

      The other part of the problem is that negative campaigning seems to work, and that is true because too many people pay attention to that tactic, and don’t take the time to really understand the issues – as long as people reward simplistic slogans and “sound bytes” we are going to be stuck with the current situation. Sadly, our country at the national level seems to be moving in the wrong direction, and there does also seem to be a similar trend on the local scene as well.

      There are good, thoughtful people in both parties, and intelligent, informed voters, to be sure, but there are a lot of extreme partisans too. Let’s hope the former outweigh the latter.

      Forums like this one may help by educating people who truly care and want to fully understand the issues.

  2. Well said, Pattye. Couldn’t agree with you more. In spite of political affiliation, I always vote for the candidate who best reflects my views & what I think they might accomplish once elected.

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