October 31, 2023

Peter Greene: Dear Voters: Please Pay Attention

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If elections are coming up in your area, it’s time to pay attention. Reposted with permission. 

It’s an off year, with mostly just boring things like school board seats and judgeships up for election. Maybe some local municipal stuff. All really dull.

I am begging you. Please pay attention.
Over the past couple of years, I have ploughed through story after story about local school boards that had acquired a new ultra-conservative majority that proceeded to do everything from firing superintendents and central office staff to creating new policy to rooting out imaginary CRT and various Naughty Books to going after the budget with a meataxe.
These actions are often followed by community outcry, sometimes productive but often to no avail. And  they all tell a similar story about how things got to this point.
People weren’t paying attention. People just kind of slept through the board election. People didn’t bother to vote because they assumed the usual reasonable people would win in a walk.
People tend to imagine that who actually sits on the school board doesn’t matter that much. Unless there’s some pressing local issue like bus stops, sports uniforms, or a teacher contract under negotiation, folks assume that board members fungible, that they can be swapped out without much effect on anything. Heck, in regions like mine, it’s not unusual to have too few people running to fill all the seats, which really helps reinforce a habit of ignoring board elections.
If there’s anything to be learned in the last decade, it’s that elections have consequences.
When it comes to school boards (and courts), there are a whole bunch of folks who are involved in a concerted, and often well-funded effort to commandeer these positions (whatever “well-funded” means in your neck of the woods). There are christianists who want to insert their religion into the public sphere. There are MAGA members who want to gut the curriculam and replace it with their own. There are culture warriors who want to tear up the rules by which your district operates and create their own. There are dominionists who want to take back schools. There are people who want to root out “indoctrination” (aka “making students aware of anything these folks disagree with”) and replace it with “proper thinking” (aka “making sure students are led to believe what these right-thinking folks believe”).
What’s more, at this point many of these folks understand that saying out loud that they are, say, Moms For Liberty endorsed or running specifically to get their personal faith made school policy–that might not be a winning campaign, and it might be best to keep the quiet part quiet. At least until after you’ve won. And when it comes to judgeships–well, in Pennsylvania we have Carolun Carluccio running for State Supreme Court, heavily financed by Jeff Yass and carefully scrubbing her materials of reference to her strong anti-abortion stance.
If you assume that how (or if) you vote on a school board election (or judge) election doesn’t really matter, I am here to tell you that you are deeply and truly wrong. It may take some legwork and study to figure out who’s who (and if you have done that work, please share it), but it is far easier to do this kind of work before elections than it is to try to protect your school district from duly-elected vandals.
If far out there candidates are elected because a community knows what they stand for and elects them, that’s one thing. But when radicals are elected because the community is napping, that’s a big mastake with serious consequences.
Please pay attention.
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