Elections and consequences
November 3, 2005
I love elections. I love the shouting and the screaming, the whooping and the hollering. And I love the fact that, in the end, things actually get decided.
Oh sure, I know, in Aspen we spend a lot of time trying our best to un-decide whatever it was we decided last time around. But, even then, we still decide some very real things ” some very important things, as a matter of fact.
I don’t want to get all choked up and teary-eyed over the glories of democracy in action ” and I certainly don’t want any of you to get over-excited and charge off to invade some unfortunate, misguided,
backward neighbors to bring them the wonders of democracy. (Utah doesn’t need our help. They seem to be doing just fine with theocracy over there, thank you.)
Elections are just fun, that’s all.
And I particularly like local elections ” and maybe best of all, the off-year local elections like the one we just had.
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What’s nice about the off-year elections is that they aren’t overwhelmed by mobs of candidates running for city council or county commission.
Don’t get me wrong. I think those races are great, too. I love a little free-form, backwoods character assassination as much as the next guy (unless the next guy happens to be Karl Rove).
But there’s something particularly nice about an off-year vote on important local issues that don’t usually get the attention they deserve. This is a chance for these issues to stand up ” proud and tall ” and be heard.
This week, Aspen voted on school funding and school board members, on support for the historical society, on money for the hospital and money to buy buses and build storm sewers and trails and a swimming pool.
None of these are very sexy issues, are they? None of them were even remotely likely to inspire an anonymous, illegal mailing of badly drawn, semi-pornographic fliers (as happened in a heated city council election a few decades back). As far as I know, no names were called, no insults hurled.
The biggest vote-getter in the school board race said her major campaign effort consisted of showing up for newspaper interviews and sending e-mails to her friends, asking them to spread the word.
It was all low-key.
All that really happened was that several thousand local residents did some thinking, did some talking and made some decisions on things that really matter to this community: our hospital and our schools, to begin with.
It doesn’t get much more important than that, does it?
Especially since, thank goodness, our local governments don’t have the power to declare war. I mean, if the mayor of Aspen had the power to start bombing Vail (not necessarily a bad idea), that would raise the stakes on our local elections. But since the irresponsible global exercise of lethal power is carried out by those we select at the national level, our local elections don’t get any more important than the kind of decisions we made this week.
We decided to care for the sick and educate the young. We chose the people who will guide that process of education.
And we acted to preserve our history.
Personally, I think local voters made damn good choices, pretty much clear across the board. Call me one of the “tax and spend” guys (as opposed to one of the “cut taxes, borrow and spend” guys), but I think these are all going to turn out to be wise decisions in the long run.
I know I keep veering toward national issues here, even as I talk about local elections. So please forgive me if I do it one more time by saying that as I watch what seems to be happening to our nation and our Supreme Court, I can’t help shaking my head and thinking, “Elections have consequences.”
But as I look at what happened here this week, I can’t help thinking the exact same thought ” and smiling.