Been away for a while and have been reading with great interest news stories about the flood of candidates seeking to serve as the next Mayor of Memphis. I have also watched a great deal of enthusiastic activity from folks all over the political spectrum preparing to gear up for the upcoming special mayoral election this October in support for already declared candidates and in efforts to enlist others to join into the race.There is nothing wrong with any of that.
I would however like to caution everyone to take a moment and consider an alternative viewpoint. There is an old saying about Democrats and Republicans that loosely applies here, and that saying goes something like, "Republicans fall in line, Democrats fall in love." The gist of the statement is that the flaw of the Republicans is that they they are so strident in their beliefs that candidate diversity and individuality is repressed, and that the flaw of Democrats is that they end up so personally invested in their candidates that they do not allow anyone to question them, even when they are wrong. Let me be frank, Candidates are NOT your friends. They are not your family,your saviors or your messiahs, they are not perfect beings nor are the perfect extensions of your political beliefs. They are however, people of ambition, talent and skill who are all applying for job.
Why do people support candidates?, well clearly because they have been convinced by either the candidates actions or campaigns that there exists a connection of values and ideals between the candidate and themselves. Sometimes this is factual, but more often it is not. This perceived connection without context will consistently trump other voter concerns like competence, and even platform.
My point is not to demean or question the integrity of those who seek to run for office nor insult those who work on campaigns, far from it, it takes alot of guts to put yourself out there and risk rejection, financial loss, humiliation and the toll a campaign and public life has on the candidate's loved ones.To volunteer on a campaign takes long hours of grueling work, which is normally neither glamorous nor fun. My point is that a campaign's job is to elect a candidate nothing more, nothing less. A candidate's job is to win an election. That is the long and the short of it.
However, I want everyone to consider the rare and golden opportunity that lies before us. So my friendly advice is, do not sell your support on the cheep. This race seems to have a large number of candidates in the running, those candidates and campaigns will need good people,money and will have to move quickly in order to be ready for October. This is going to be a very brief but intense process, and in the flurry I believe that a real conversation on issues will be the first casualty of the oncoming Battle Royale. You have the power to change that.
You can change that if instead of organizing around candidates we instead organize around the ISSUES that will help make Memphis into a better city for all of us. We need to reform our public transportation system so that MATA can better serve this community and get people to work on time. We need reform in Code Enforcement to help eliminate the lead poisoning of our young, deal effectively with blight,curb illegal dumping and tearing down condemned properties that become magnets for crime. We need to augment our workforce development programs and increase job skill training, and we need to make mental health and drug and alcohol rehabilitation a priority in law enforcement. These are but a few of the issues we could shine a light on.
If we can effectively organize around issues then the candidates will come to you. That will tell you who to support and vote for. If all the candidates agree to those specific asks then you can hold them all accountable if they do not follow through on those pledges. Best of all, as the winner of this special election will have to run again in 2011, it would be in his or her best interest to make good on that promise as early as possible.
The time has come for the dog to wag the tail in Memphis politics as opposed to the other way around.
Or don't...it's all up to you.