By T.A. Barnhart of Corvallis, Oregon who describes himself as a "active dem, band parent, poet-philosopher, deanista, dodgers fan, and i love good italian cheese."
I know I should simply be glad about the outcome, but I'm not. The bigger picture worries me too much.
On Tuesday, Benton County voters elected two Democrats and a progressive Green to the Corvallis School Board; the one conservative that even had the will to run, lost. This is a good thing. The school board will be in very good, and strongly progressive hands, for at least the next two years.
But only 22% of those eligible to do so voted. Six months ago, 89% of us sent in or dropped off ballots. This is a huge dropoff, and not to be taken lightly. It's even more worrisome given what a huge role the board has played in shaping the future of Corvallis-area schools. A teachers strike was narrowly averted recently, and many residents saw the School Board as being more at fault than the teachers. In last fall's election, a continuation of the existing school levy was defeated; that school board's lackluster, inept campaign on behalf of the levy doomed the measure (they truly pulled a Kerry on that one).
Electing a strong, responsible school board was the highest order of this ballot, and the two open races placed strong options before the voters. Yet over three-quarters of the Benton County electorate decided to skip this one. Only a few months after we heard the stories of how Iraqis risked their lives to vote, 78% of Benton County voters could not bother to mark a few ovals, seal and sign an envelope, and spend 37 cents on a stamp. I can think of all kinds of reasons why this would happen, and every single one is only an excuse., and a damn lame one at that.
Did the huge turnout last November only indicate how strongly Oregonians felt about the president, marriage equality, and land rights? Did it have nothing at all to do with democracy? This is what worries me so much. The point of the exercise is not to get a certain person in office, or force laws to conform to your personal preferences. The point is that we live in a democracy. In a democracy, the most basic act is voting. When we vote, we cast our ballots not for people or ballot measures; we cast out vote for our system of government. Democracy.
I'm glad we elected some good Dems (and a good Green) this week. It's too bad we failed our larger purpose. We have a lot of work to do to preserve our country, and it's not a good sign if we can't do the simplest thing of all: vote.