I remember growing up and hearing the timeless adage, “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket”. As adults we realize this translates to such things as networking, planning, forming contingency plans, and acting with informed deliberation. This saying always aroused a sense of trepidation and anxiety in me, calling to question the irresoluteness of anything. It is difficult as a child to accept that sometimes there are things in the world that will not be foreseeable, calculable, or even preventable. Agency in a child is a very fragile, growing thing. This is true for adults as well.
North Carolina’s Elevator Queen
When I think of local elections, I think of Cherie Berry, and how I’ve seen that name in a North Carolina elevator for nine years. That’s just the time I’ve been knowingly aware of her as a force of influence; Cherie Berry with her artful gaze encasing that indulgent smile as she imparts the stature of a stately representative with managerial skill and the acumen of an effective communicator. Cherie Berry has been the commissioner of labor for almost seventeen years. That is longer than two Presidents each serving eight years. I wonder exactly how it is that with every election I seem to be presented with candidates that are too young, too dispirited or uniformly cut to their role, too ego-maniacal to be effective past a lobbyist wet dream, or too connected and entrenched in a system of nepotism that has its reaches into the nexus of every civil service job in the state. If someone suitable as a political representative came up to me and shook my hand, would I even begin to know how to tell if they were authentic?
Commander in Chief or CEO?
Some people put their all their eggs in the basket of the White House. Let’s call this the trickle-down vote. People believe that as the CEO of the country, the Presidential office is the most important role. That it is the vote that matters. Now, I’m not arguing that it is a vote that greatly matters. It is a crucial vote to name the person who becomes the figurehead and commander-in-chief of our country. Yet, return back to the idea of the President as CEO. Chief executive officers of companies, while holding extremely powerful positions, are acting as agents of the company’s board. The board and its members control the company. We can see this in the long list of ousted CEOs from companies such as Equifax, JetBlue, and Groupon. CEOs may be the face of the company, but there are powerful figures in the background that are the pivotal players.
The Room Where it Happens
Sadly, the background of politics is where everything happens. Contrary to its long-winded performance, C-SPAN does not show everything. Part of raising that curtain is becoming a participant in state and local elections. I’m not a newly christened voter, and I haven’t been a consistent voter since I turned eighteen. Part of my own reluctance to be engaged was my skepticism of both parties, the lack of transparency in government leadership (including the actual process of voting itself), the lack of elected representatives able to provide an individual record of administering professional and ethical public service (think of how all candidates, even those running again, make claims of what they are going to do and rarely refer to specific examples of past experience), and the persistent feeling that I was complicit in manufactured democratic agency. I don’t think I was alone in not voting so that I could feel a sense of personal integrity maintained.
Now I’ve come to realize that every vote matters. I’ve come to this conclusion for a multitude of reasons, but one of the most crucial is the recognition of the efforts made to intimidate voters. The New York Times released an article that exposed state police officers in Florida who decided to “randomly” go door-to-door in a neighborhood of elderly Americans, mostly African-American, and question their voting in a past mayoral election. This timely questioning occurred as voting for the 2017 Presidential race was in its consequential stages.
Now I’m not saying that the SBI or the local sheriff office is sending in quadrants of armed men to canvass neighborhoods and create an atmosphere of fear and repression. These events of political oppression do not happen on a grand scale, they happen in small towns or in small communities within cities, and they often happen because of rationalizations that are unchecked, unfounded, and derelict of moral oversight.
In my state of North Carolina, there has been a pushed political agenda that is focused on capital gain for lawmakers, lobbyist, and the myriad network of venture capitalist, investors, and private companies with shared interests who demonstrate such a keen level of concern in our state’s affairs. One new law allows restaurants in North Carolina to serve alcohol at ten in the morning, instead of the afternoon. Instead of serving better or even maybe cheaper dishes with Sunday specials, restaurateurs are set on serving mimosas and mojitos. What could possibly go wrong even though a Center for Disease Control reports shows that North Carolina is above the national average in age-related drunk driving fatalities in every single age group? That’s not all folks. North Carolina legislators are currently reviewing Bill 746 that allows gun owners to carry concealed without a permit. It also has a provision allowing firearm safety classes as elective classes in high schools. Again, what could possibly go wrong?
It Doesn’t Matter Who Your Party Is
Government is an indecipherable web of unfatigued schemes, artifice, and calculated misdeeds. We know politicians didn’t cultivate their skills through simple reflection and a devout attention to spreading goodwill. We know members of each party have acted with less than scrupulous means and compromised ideals. What that doesn’t have to mean is a citizenry that is disengaged and unrepresented. It is true that local elections can be extremely confusing. There is a general lack of transparency in what an alderman or commissioner does. Each county is different in the number of years an elected official holds office. In Asheboro, a member of the board of education is a seated official for six years. This is a long-term for such an important, influential role in the community. When more and more people become aware of the political distinctions and divergences in their county as well as their state, Americans can gain a greater sense of political agency and more adeptly feel the winds of change that come with recognizing oneself as a politically expressed and active citizen.