The Aberdeen American News goes out on two limbs this week. The Hub City’s editorial board tells Aberdeen voters they have “failed” in producing a dismal 3.5% turnout for Tuesday’s local election. They then suggest this liberal blogger may be more interested in the civic well-being of his new hometown than most voters:
Congratulations to Brad Olson and Linda Burdette for earning new terms on the school board. Also to Laure Swanson for garnering a second term on the Aberdeen City Council. And, for that matter, to Cory Heidelberger, an Aberdeen newcomer who decided to challenge Swanson to create the opportunity for the community to discuss important issues. He showed an interest in the well-being of the city, which is more than can be said for most of Aberdeen’s registered voters [editorial board, “Aberdeen Voters Failed,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.06.03].
Creating an opportunity to discuss important issues—bingo. The newspaper has caught on to what I contend is the first duty of any candidate. We run for office not to gain power or fame but to lead conversations, to get voters thinking, and to give voters a chance to apply that thinking to a real choice at the polls.
I appreciate the editorial board’s recognition that newcomers have as much to offer the civic life of their communities as long-time residents. Such a welcoming attitude is essential to any community in South Dakota that is trying to recruit new residents to build its workforce, tax base, and cultural vibrancy. I also agree with our local paper’s assessment of the importance of participation in democracy. Whether we are voting, petitioning, or discussing important issues here on the blog, we all need to participate in civic discourse and decision-making to keep democracy from turning into autocracy or kakocracy.