Benjamin Franklin responded to the question, “What kind of government do we have?” with prophesy.
“A republic – if you can keep it.”
American history ever since has been the story of conflict between factions. One man’s freedom was even then the enslavement of another, and women are still waiting for the equality and opportunities — and respect — implied in the Constitution for any citizen.
We even went to civil war over it.
Elections in a democratic republic have consequences.
The appointment of a judge at any level is connected to some distant future event, if only at a personal level for those coming before the judge. The judge who once ruled on traffic tickets— or a land development dispute — may someday cast a deciding vote on a woman’s right to make decisions about abortion or a Black child’s right to an equal education.
It isn’t just a national issue. A Republican partisan warned me when I ran for office that I was too neutral.
“We won’t let anyone get elected to dog catcher if they don’t toe the party line,” was the gist of the caution. For good measure, I was told I should reconsider turning down an invitation to visit a certain local church. Without the endorsement of that congregation, I would not win, I was warned.
“If that’s the way it works, I don’t want to be elected,” I said
Another point of pressure was The Pledge. Grover Norquist’s pledge, required of any candidate for office, to not raise taxes for anything for any reason, no matter what.
I said it would be ridiculous to ignore a reasonable case for funding schools, emergency services, public responses to disaster or economic progress.
No matter. Pledge no new taxes, period.
Made no sense to me. To make matters worse, I had cordial relationships with several of the Democrat candidates running for office. I found them preferable to most of the Republicans I was getting to know. More reasonable. Less predatory, for one thing.
Thus, I ceased to be a real Republican in the eyes of the indoctrinated, and was forever after a RINO — Republican in Name Only. It was supposed to be an insult, but over time, as absolutist thinking ultimately brought the Tea Party caucus nastiness to the fore, I was proud to be independent. And am so registered now.
Extremists are dangerous to the republic, Right or Left.
Over years, locally, consequences of elections led to master plans for growth, adequate facilities laws, environmental protections. And then to their abuses, which is why I ran. We pushed for adequate facilities laws. That led to lawsuits, deferrals of residential growth so the adequate facilities efforts could provide enough classrooms, teachers, training for emergency services people, compliance with good water and land preservation practices and economic expansion that didn’t create more stresses than improvements. Squabbling is a republic at work.
Local headlines now reflect some of those consequences. Mount Airy has land to annex from the county because of lawsuits raised during the deferral of development. The county lost one suit and was ordered to pay the developer. The county offered to buy the land for the amount of the settlement, and the offer was accepted.
There is still debate about how much residential growth (and water usage) should be considered, and how much of that land should be for creating jobs and revenue, how many homes can be built.
County airport improvements are moving ahead.
And Westminster is revisiting a way to preserve open space on the site of a former golf course — once pastureland — after a previous proposal was stalled. There were and remain concerns of too much residential development impacting existing neighborhoods.
On the national news, the choice of filling a seat on the Supreme Court is revisited four years after too many people stayed home and did not vote because they could not decide between two negative candidates.
Votes have consequences. So does not voting.
Dean Minnich is a writer and columnist, former editor, reporter and served two terms as a Carroll County Commissioner. His column appears Thursdays. His email address is email@example.com.