Thursday, April 28, 2016

Death, Disgrace, or Defeat

I can't remember where I heard it, but maybe four years ago someone told me that the vast majority of political careers end in one of three ways: death, disgrace, or defeat.  For every voluntary retirement, there are 3-4 politicians seeing their way out through one of those three doors.  And ever since I heard that quote, I see the victorious elected politician a little differently.  They have won the day, for now.  They have the respect of a majority of their constituents, for now.  They are given discretionary power over a vast array of public needs, for now.

And for those who lose, particularly those who have served, that victorious day was once theirs.  They earned the respect and support of the community.  They utilized it to the best of their ability.  And then, they lost.  The office is transient but the human being underneath remains.

In light of that, I have come into the belief that after elections are over it is appropriate to 1) thank exiting officials for their service, and 2) thank candidates for running.  Kindness and empathy are free.  In fact, one of the most treasured moments of my campaign for delegate in 2014 was an e-mail Jon Weinstein sent me after the loss.  I think back on it often.  And since then, I've told myself that I will do that for others.  Maybe those people will continue the chain.  We can disagree, we can do so vociferously, but when it's done we can say "good game".

Many people confuse "disgrace" with "defeat".  I know I did.  But there is no harm in losing.  More often than not, it can lead to better things.  And often enough the disgrace is not on those who lose.  Rather, it is on those who can't accept the win with grace; those who insist on turning the win into wrath.  And yet those same people lament that "more good people don't run for office".  Huh.  Wonder why.

My opinions on the Board of Education race are well stated.  I think the Board took their power for granted and railroaded decisions without stopping to listen to their constituents.  I think there is a very serious problem with the manner in which HCPSS staff are being compelled into the political arena on matters important to the Superintendent.  I think the Board chair is in an echo chamber that is forcing one bad public statement after another.  Overall, I am frustrated that it has come to this when any reasonable adult would have stopped to say "What can I do to make this better?"

Nevertheless, I do not believe that anything will be made better by way of punitive electoral justice.  That's how this fine country earned itself the Tea Party caucus and I'm not sure that's worked out so well.  My concerns, and the concerns of many of the people I've spoken with about the Board of Education, will only be resolved if rational, fair-minded, collaborative people are elected.  Those who want to involve the community in the conversation, but are not looking to burn the whole thing down in the process.

Transparency is a false god that can never be satisfied.  What we really want and need is community participation, ownership, and buy-in on educational policy.  Transparency is a warehouse full of documents that you may review at your leisure.  Community participation means showing your work.  What problem were you trying to solve and how did you get here?  There are so many stakeholders in an education system that it is imperative that motivations be plain and predictable.  This Board has presumed that we're not smart enough to understand what they're doing, which is why a very different Board will be seated this December.  But I caution those who have six months left to run: choose your dance partner wisely.  Be clear in your objectives.  There will always be more people to punish and more seats to fill.  If you are fortunate enough to win, you're no longer an outsider fighting an unjust system.  You're in charge of making it just.

Have a great Thursday doing what you love!