I can honestly say that I cannot recall ever voting in a local election. Or at least caring that I was voting for local candidates as I was voting. I’ve voted in every presidential election since I could (Bush-Gore — what an eventful first vote!).
As I’ve written about before, my attitudes toward civic engagement and activism changed on November 9, 2016. I woke up devastated but ready to fight.
So organize and fight is what I’ve done. As Indivisible has helped us see, we need to take every seat we can. Concerned citizens in Morgantown, WV pulled together immediately after the election to discuss what we could do to change the Trumpian narrative. We identified the city council as a prime spot to make a change. Most importantly for me (at the time), it deepens the bench for later elections as well. A city councilor could next become a state delegate or a U.S. Representative. For me, that was initially the main goal of changing the city council. Let’s get folks in the pipeline.
But in the process of meeting the candidates, making donations, and canvassing to flip the seats, I’ve also learned a ton about my town, what I want for my town, and what amazing people we have in our community. I envision a town where we value green spaces and sidewalks. Where my dad doesn’t come to visit, go on a bike ride, and have a kid on a school bus throw a bottle at him because we have no bike lanes (well, and that kid was an ass). Where development and businesses don’t trump the natural beauty of our town. We had seven amazing people who stepped up to promote that vision.
Mark Brazaitis, who has written for us before (and hopefully will again, hint hint), envisions free public wifi in public places and responsible development. Rachel Fetty has been a strong advocate for families struggling for stable housing (a great concern of mine given my own research). Ron Dulaney is an architect with a vision for how to take the great promise of an old town — old, brick buildings, and a lovely waterfront — and turn it into a vibrant place for families to enjoy. In sum, I have learned that my town can change and that there are people in town ardently committed to making that potential a reality.
And we won. The entire group of seven progressive candidates won tonight. We worked hard, ignored some shitty, dirty politics, and won.
I realize a local election isn’t a national referendum on Trump, but in our small world, I think it is. This victory demonstrates the passion of the progressive base to rally around strong candidates and to get out the vote. I am more hopeful for my community than I have been since November. I am also hopeful for our state and country. West Virginia is not currently known for its progressive values, but this election is perhaps an indication of what is possible when we put differences aside and pull together under a shared progressive vision of the future.