The great journalist Molly Ivins said, “Never take a vacation in August.” Her experience was that everyone takes a vacation in August, and it was her luck to be the only one in the office when a major story broke- for instance, the death of Elvis Presley. I do follow Molly’s advice whenever I can.
But by taking a vacation at the end of July, I missed all three of the kick-off parties for the school board race. This had me bummed on three counts; I love politics, I love a good party, and I cannot believe that we are starting the school board race in July. The election is in November, and we are out of the gate and running in JULY? Really? Joooo-lie ?? Whose great idea was that?
With three candidates (alright, four, just for technical accuracy) running for two seats, one of them an incumbent seeking re-election, I don’t see that we need that much time. What I have heard from several local voters is that it’s just annoying. Three months worth of electoral rhetoric is way more than anyone needs to choose a candidate. Consider the electorate, and know that just about everyone who votes already knows who they will be voting for.
There must be some sort of bottom line here. With all the local press looking for copy, there will be a slew of interviews, a bunch of events, and a series of forums to present the candidates. When November arrives, I can promise there will be at least a dozen people who are so sick of the whole parade, they will refuse to vote.
I do know that this is why many of my friends chose to vote by mail rather than go to the polls on Election Day. They can do their civic duty, and choose to ignore the tail end of a campaign that goes on too long.
The United Kingdom is not often a place I look to for examples, but their electoral process is one that we could benefit from studying. Elections are given a frame of about six weeks, and sometimes run as short as a month. This gives the candidates a moment to stay on their message, keeps the electorate focused, and gets everyone across the finish line without the campaign fatigue that so often dissolves into complete apathy. It also keeps the finances in the realm of sanity, something that no U.S. election, local, state or federal, can lay claim to over the past several decades.
I have to toss part of the responsibility to City Councilmember Jeff Cooper, who announced his campaign for city council so early in the last electoral cycle people thought he was running for school board. I just don’t see that coming out early equates to coming out strong.
While I know that Culver City loves to vote, we all have other important things to think about, like, oh, y’know, global warming. If we spend the next three months focusing on the changes we can make in our lives to reduce carbon, our school board and our students will have less to worry about. Don’t laugh; listen to any group of kids talking for any length of time, and the topic of climate apocalypse will come up.
Let’s spend our time focusing on the things that really matter. Are school board elections important? Yes. Are they worthy of three-plus months of our attention? That’s longer than anyone standing for Parliament gets. As Molly Ivins hailed from Texas, I don’t know what she might have thought of the UK electoral rules, but they were not the political campaigns that she lived with. Giving it back over to Ms. Ivins –
“Naturally, when it comes to voting, we in Texas are accustomed to discerning that fine hair’s-breadth worth of difference that makes one hopeless dipstick slightly less awful than the other. But it does raise the question: Why bother?
Oh, it’s just that your life is at stake.”
School board may seem like a small-potatoes sort of election, but in my mind, every potato counts. I promise to send out a wake up call in late October, and let you know who I think you should vote for, because it does matter. But it’s the middle of summer, for heavens’ sake; go out and play.