By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
Election Day is upon us and with it the outcome of a notable voting frenzy arguably spurred by one of two motivating factors: change or satisfaction. As a wise man once said, if voters are satisfied with the community’s current state of affairs, they will reward elected officials with re-election. If dissatisfied, citizens will, in the interest of progress, hold their public servants accountable by voting them out of office.
These decisions, however, are not decided by screaming campaigners whose presence at the polls often intimidates voters rather than encourages them. And elections are definitely not decided with political signs, sample ballots or circulars. A flyer that recently advocated for candidates who are educated homeowners not on government welfare, for example, drew the ire of many, effectively serving to polarize rather than mobilize. As an individual who has not earned a college degree and does not yet own his own home, at least not for another year or two, I am also offended by the implication that a person without these advantages would not make a good leader.
Still, what is of greater offense is that some of the very people who expressed outrage about the flyer lay silent when well-known community members they’re associated with have – during this election cycle and in the past – espoused hateful rants spewing racism, classism and homophobia. In such cases, anyone who selectively decides which offense to condemn and which to ignore proves no better than the indignation they initially shook their fist at in disgust. Perhaps the integrity many of our community leaders claim to represent is only as sound as their decision making… well, so much for integrity. Or maybe it just means that San Benito still has much to learn.
Whatever the case may be, attempting to reason with the blindly supportive about these matters and more unfortunately continues to be a task worthy of the next Mission Impossible film plot. This is most unfortunate since unconditional support of any political hopeful seeking public office is as dangerous as it is irresponsible. If those within any coterie are not actively questioning the candidate they’ve thrown their support behind then that person is not only failing their campaign but the entire city.
This is why press coverage is paramount; after all, elections are decided within the pages of local newspapers, social media forums and websites that spark debate, inspire open dialogue at kitchen tables and water coolers and pose questions that demand answers. Found in the pages of every edition of the San Benito News, for instance, is evidence of all that makes this city as triumphant as it is tormented, which in turn serves to engage the public. As a result, voters are now armed with a healthy dose of current events to help them make more-informed decisions.
Within the last year alone, citizens learned that teachers and law enforcement authorities entrusted to educate and protect their children allegedly betrayed that trust; they learned that leaders charged with safeguarding the city’s interests allegedly abused their office; and they learned of the brazen use of taxpayer money to fund an investigation into the school district superintendent, which has thus far shown to have no productive end in sight – all are decisions that will likely cost local governing bodies public favor, not to mention hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.
But consider for a moment the scintillating brilliance San Benito still wields, and that’s the simple fact that news of these matters broke as they were occurring. This is a sign of social health within a community – that our sources risked their statuses, their jobs and possibly their livelihoods to help expose perceived injustices, enfranchising a people once thought to be imprisoned by their own apathy in the process. Take no solace in this revelation; take no solace because San Benito needs no solace. The record numbers reported during early voting indicates that this town cares about its future, and so it should.