The most visible night in civics is over and the 364 other days of civics continue.
Election night is the Oscars; civics is the other days when the work takes place.
Just like we need the Oscar Awards to promote the industry, we need election night to remind the populace that people star in government roles.
About half the population believe the Oscars are a celebration of talent; the other half believe the Oscars are merely a contrived event to promote the industry. Not unlike how people view elections and politicians. About half the people vote, half think it’s a scam and stay away.
Half of them are right. Half from one camp, half from the other. Because nothing is absolute. And just because someone makes a critical comment doesn’t mean they dislike the process. The most detrimental people to civics are the cheerleaders. Those that promote “their side” regardless of facts or outcomes. Civics is a good, solid argument, based on facts as you honestly believe them to be, and listening to the other person who just as honestly believes something else. The magic happens when people have those “ah ha” moments and see the other person’s point of view.
“Four years ago I decided to run for Congress — in hindsight I must have completely lost my mind. I wanted to see what was behind the curtain of government, politics, society. I wanted to see for myself, how does this work."
That’s "Kevin from Pendleton."
That’s how call-in radio works. You get a first name, where you’re calling from, and if you’re intelligent, bring something to the conversation and respect the discussion, you become a force. Kevin is a force.
“I went and looked behind the curtain and it’s rotten," he said.
Anyone who has talked to Kevin knows he’s not a sour, bitter, dejected person. He’s the exact opposite of that. He’s not going to sugar coat anything either.
“Years ago, I met Chris Collins and voted for him," Kevin said. "Then I got to know him. He was only out for himself. I wondered if anyone else felt this way and, if they did, why did we keep sending him to Congress. When I was campaigning, I felt like John the Baptist in the wilderness, telling people the truth, having them agree but still voting for selfishness. It was then that I realized the political system has got to change before we can change anything else. When people are presented with the truth, understand it, and still make the same bad choices, something isn’t right."
Chris Collins has been feted at many political Oscar nights. Now, seemingly overnight, he’s not a congressman, and he’s not even a New York state resident anymore.
What makes Kevin’s quest so interesting — so worthy of pause and reflection — is that he’s from Trinidad. He had no idea that you just don’t up and run for Congress because you have a better way of doing things. He seemed to believe in the American dream that anything is possible if you have the truth on your side.
“I learned that the system is pretty rotten," he said. "Take the Board of Elections, there is one Republican commissioner, one Democratic commissioner. Who is looking out for the minor political parties? One of my goals now is to coordinate with all the minor political parties and get us all to realize, we could have more strength than the two major parties if we were organized. Nothing can happen until we reform the election process."
It’s refreshing that an election loss has done nothing to dampen Kevin’s desire to improve the community. In fact, it seems like it’s only solidified his passion.
Where does Kevin’s passion come from?
“There was a guy on the radio in Trinidad when I was growing up, and he used to say that the saddest words in the English language were ‘It’s too late.' We cannot ever concede that it’s too late. There are so many good people among us, even if they don’t always do good things, there are good people."
What would Kevin do about Niagara Falls?
“You have to remember, we didn’t win WWII in only one theater. It was a multi-pronged approach. Same with everything. There is no one action. But if I had to say one thing it would be to follow the money. That’s always a key to people’s actions. We have a billion dollar a year power plant. Get behind the curtain of that. Who even runs that thing?”
“If I were Mayor I would run everything by referendum," he added. "It’s 2019, use technology. When there are major decisions to be made, put it back to the people of the city. Let them decide. Maybe I’m too idealistic, but the people are smart enough to make good decisions if you give them good information. If you give them good information and get them involved, voting participation will go up and people will feel they have a say in their city. We need to get people involved in the running of their own city."
“I hate to say it, but the power of decisions is in the hands of too few people. It’s also in the hands of the same people for too long. We need to fix the political process locally before we can fix much else. Fix the political process first, get more people involved, then we’ll be able to tackle the other issues."
The Civics takeaway: Talk to more people and listen more closely. Kevin and I had never spoken before this week, and now I value his opinion and appreciate his commitment. We could argue about an issue and come away friends, better off for the exchange of ideas. All of us are smarter than any of us.
The Civics Project is an organization founded to further the education of the public to their civic responsibilities. For further information or to become involved visit www.thecivicsproject.org. Mr. Christy can be reached via email at email@example.com.