The new year is here and it could not have come soon enough. The year that recently passed into history was certainly one of the most difficult for our nation and it exposed the shallowness of leadership. We need better leaders on the national level in politics.
With that stated, though, real leadership begins at home and 2014 is an important year for our community. There will be 32 elected positions up for grabs in Barren County this year. Some of those positions will likely be decided by May primaries if there are not candidates from each party who have filed to run. Others will be hotly contested both in primaries and in the November general election.
Years ago, in a column about citizens participating in the democratic process, I wrote these lines:
“Participating in a democracy by voting is one part of a larger freedom that allows the citizens of a community, and our nation, to make change. A free press is one part of a larger freedom because it gives citizens the right to be informed.
But the part of a larger freedom that is often overlooked, or under appreciated, is participation — either by running for office or by being sure to take advantage of laws in place that allow for our voices to be heard. If you don’t like a decision made by your elected officials, let them know by asking them to publicly explain their decisions.”
That column focused on the importance of citizens showing up at city council and fiscal court meetings, getting their names on the agenda and voicing their ideas in the public arena.
A critical part of a healthy democracy is having many political candidates from which to choose. Fewer choices guarantees a limited outcome where only a small number of people are represented. Potential voters, I believe, know this, which is why so many people often say they don’t vote because they know their vote doesn’t count. Why they believe their vote doesn’t count is because when they look at the candidates from which they can pick, they don’t see anyone who represents them.
Primaries are designed to cull the pack of Democrats and Republicans to the two best candidates, but too often on the local level, the primaries are not contested. As of right now, there are three candidates for Barren County Judge-Executive, two Republicans and one Democrat. That’s at least three too few. In the seven magisterial districts, three are uncontested. That’s unacceptable. It seems there should be at least four candidates in each district. District 4 does have four running, but three of those are from the Democratic party.
Having more people running for public office is not a statement on the job incumbents have done. It is a sign to me that many people are interested in public service and believe they have a calling to serve the citizens of their community. (At this point, some of you, my seven faithful readers, will call me naive and idealistic. My response is I am fully aware that political parties often weed out those they believe are not capable of winning a general election and discourage those individuals from running for office. It seems the rise of the tea party nationally and locally is a response to the old party machine. Also, I still believe in a brighter future where cynicism doesn’t rule our election process.)
There are plenty of good people who do serve our community in many ways, either as business leaders, educators, volunteers for non profits, or in other, less obvious ways. Many of these good people would make fine elected officials because they are conscientious and put others before themselves. Those are qualities we should want, but those individuals also have jobs, careers, commitments that require their undivided attention. Plus, they don’t want to get involved in the arena of politics, which can be rougher than an MMA fight.
In the end, we as citizens have to demand better to get better results. If we don’t want our politics to be run by cynics and bullies, then we must demand better candidates by becoming better candidates. Then we must show up at meetings and demand those who were chosen to do the public’s business in public view.
James Brown is editor for the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes. com.
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