A reader responding to my column last week – "The State of the Union in the Age of Trump" – concluded that I've abandoned hope. And in doing that, wrote Phillip Miner, I've failed in my responsibility to encourage readers to fight back.
Actually, I haven't abandoned hope, although I'm certainly discouraged. But I appreciate Miner's concern, and his determination to fight the darkness that many of us see. As I told him, I admire his spirit, because we'll need it. Change won't be easy, and it won't come quickly.
One lesson from the current mess is that much of the change has to begin at the local level. The anger and frustration of individual people across the country coalesced into grassroots activism that created the Tea Party movement, which led to the right-wing take-over of Congress and the madness that now occupies the White House.
So while we're railing at Washington, we'd better be working at home, pushing for progress and progressive ideas in the city, the suburbs, and the state.
This community is a good place, for many of us. And occasionally, I can pull myself out of the funk that the national mess has inspired, and find hope that we'll lick some of the deep-rooted problems that keep this from being a good place for all of us. Poverty, education, racism: they're not insurmountable problems. We just haven't had the will to solve them.
One place I'm finding hope right now: interviewing candidates for the fall election. In Rochester, this is a big year. Voters will elect the mayor, the majority of City Council members, and three of the seven school board members. And in the Democratic Party, there's intense competition: three candidates for mayor filed petitions, five filed for school board, 13 for City Council. A few of them may get disqualified after the signatures on their petitions are scrutinized, but many will survive challenges and be on the ballot.
That's a good sign. In spite of the difficulties that governments are facing, in spite of the public's low opinion of politicians, people are still interested in public service. And it's encouraging that a fair number of the candidates are relative newcomers to politics, younger adults who have been active in other areas of community work but now want to get into politics.
If Rochester is to grow and thrive, if all of its citizens are to thrive, young people, new people, will have to help plan its future. And while not everything has to be done by government, a lot does.
Interviewing candidates for local office is one of my favorite jobs. Our writers learn a lot, from each of them. And at the end, we'll let readers know which candidates we believe should be elected. I know that some readers don't think the media should endorse candidates, but to me, that's one of our most important responsibilities. If we share our opinion about everything from school policy and police oversight to the environment and foreign affairs, why shouldn't we tell you who we think should set those policies?
And so, over much of the remainder of the summer, we'll be meeting with candidates, talking to them about key local issues. We'll be weighing the advantage of political experience against the need for new ideas, new approaches, new energy. We'll welcome your comments, your questions and ideas as we go through this process.
And we'll encourage you to pay attention, to the candidates and the issues, and to get involved – voting, certainly, but also finding a way to be involved year-round, whether that's through a political party or a non-partisan group working for a better community and a better country.
Donald Trump and the right-wing majority in Congress didn't get where they are by accident. And if we want change, like CITY reader Phillip Miner, we'll have to fight for it.