Since moving to my modest suburb outside Detroit, my interest in local politics has been marginal.
I personally don’t have much skin in the game — no school-age children, no business interests to advocate for, no history in the community. I’m generally content to pay my taxes and enjoy the benefits of living in a relatively well-run town.
Even so, as a citizen I feel responsible for knowing something about the people who run things. So while I don’t follow the workings of the city council, I do pay attention when its members are running for office, which happens in off-year elections every two years.
So this is the year, and, as expected, the front yards are abloom with lawn signs.
I get to vote for three of the six candidates. The unspoken rule is that the election process is kept strictly non-partisan, so these candidates do not publicly divulge their party affiliations.
Which almost makes sense. After all, the upkeep of our roads, sewers, power lines and other infrastructure — not to mention our schools, parks, and public areas — is in everyone’s interest, and it’s probably good to keep partisan rancor out of the process.
On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for partisan rancor. Especially now. I, for one, am feeling rancor aplenty, and I very much want to know the party affiliations of those running for office.
Because I will not, under any circumstances, vote for a Republican. No matter how competent. No matter how experienced. No matter how well-meaning.
The fraught state of our nation has brought me to the point where I have to question both the judgment and the morality of anyone still associated with that party.
I don’t care if they’re foaming-at-the-mouth Trumpies or those nice quiet folks across the street. They have — whether through ignorance or complicity or both — become a dire threat to my country, and possibly to me personally. I’m damned if I’ll vote for them to run my town.
I’ve asked around, but party ties are difficult to discern — Google isn’t much help. So I’ve taken to biking around town looking at lawn signs, trolling for hints.
I start with the houses of known Democrats, to see what names are on their lawns. Those names go in the plus column.
I then check out names that share a lawn with a Black Lives Matter sign, or an environmental action sign, or with another candidate I’ve already approved. These too get plusses.
The minus column is for lawns with a prominent American flag — a sad association to make, but not inaccurate. Likewise, if I see one of those creepy “Thin Blue Line” flags, or an NRA sticker on the pickup, their candidate moves down the list. As it happens, there’s a known rightwing buffoon on the ballot, and his signs are a big help in confirming negative impressions.
Yes, this is a lame and shallow basis for casting a ballot. But from these impressions I have gleaned a reasonable — if superficial — picture of the political leanings of the candidates. I now, with two weeks left, have a baseline from which I can gather further evidence. Plus, I’ve assured myself that I’ve put more work into this than ninety percent of the electorate — and one hundred percent of FOX viewers.
Even now, I'm confident I will have three progressive-leaning candidates to vote for. If my choices were only wingnut Republicans, as they are in many parts of Michigan, I would not refuse to vote — there's still a city to run. But I would be trying to figure out the lesser of six evils.
I’d rather not be so relentlessly partisan. I don’t like it. But I feel I have no choice. Choosing to be a Republican right now says a lot of hard-to-fathom things about a person:
It says they’re either not paying attention or they endorse the sharp anti-democratic tilt of their party. Neither is acceptable.
It says they’re either on board with transparent lies and overt sedition, or they don’t recognize them for what they are, which is just as bad.
It says that they’re fine with subverting the entire electoral system, until the only votes that count are white. That they’re okay with threatening election officials and their families. That they think minority rule is a great idea, even with no clue what that might mean to their own well-being.
It says that the ticking bomb of environmental deterioration doesn’t penetrate their consciousness. That they don’t mind blithely passing on this growing planetary calamity to their children and grandchildren. That as long as it’s not their homes that burn, flood, or blow away, there’s nothing to worry about.
It says they’re okay with prolonging the pandemic long past its sell-by date. That they can somehow conflate vaccines with tyranny. That they’re happy to listen to all the wrong sources and draw all the most dangerous — and self-destructive — conclusions. That they don’t mind seeing their local hospitals overwhelmed and their own neighbors dead. That they willfully put themselves and the people around them in harm’s way. All for the silliest of non-reasons.
It says they have no respect for the rights of women, or the rights of anyone who isn’t male, white, straight, and Christian.
It says they have no idea — or even worse, don’t care — how much damage has been done to our democracy, our institutions, our judiciary, our stature in the world, and our ability to defend ourselves from both enemies and disease. And how hard that damage will be to repair.
We need to recognize what the media will not. That the Republican party has become a clear and present danger to our way of life. And that continuing to identify as Republican means one is either stupid or complicit.
Would you want someone like that on your city council?