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Messy politics

Sometimes I wonder whether elected officials forget that they’re entitled to their own opinions.

Take a look at the national level of politics, for example. How many people are swayed by their own party’s opinion, rather than voting with their own conscience or with what their constituents want?

Take a look locally. How many township board members and city commissioners and councilors follow along with whatever the majority wants, only so that they can appear cohesive and unified behind a single seamless front?

It’s understandable that a unit of government, regardless of size or stature, would like to put forth a unified response to an inquiry or problem that might arise. Fair enough — any organization wants to present a consistent brand and public perception, whether it accurately reflects the internal opinions of that group or not. But a government shouldn’t be a brand of those who sit in office. It should be representative of those who truly have the power, the people, the electorate.

A democracy is built on debate, and if everyone agreed and blindly followed our leader(s), then we’d be a pack of lemmings, or maybe a herd of buffalo that runs off the cliff together. I want those lone wolves to howl. I want those people to voice their opinions, because that’s what democracy is about. Too often it seems that a dissenter is cast aside and shunned, hushed away into the folds of the political body, dismissed as a newcomer, as a wild card, as someone inexperienced in the public sphere.

I didn’t want this column to be political, but there are big things happening in our country and right here at home, whether we want to see them or not. We’re divided, ready to slit each other’s throats in a moment’s notice, and it’s a sad state of affairs.

In Washington, D.C., impeachment is the buzzword, and has been for some time. I wish I could tell you all about the history of presidential impeachment efforts and how quickly they went, the Constitution, the articles, Ukraine, the Biden family, bribery versus quid pro quo and so on. But, yet again, I am no expert on these matters. I’ll say that if a crime or abuse of power took place, then impeach. Isn’t that the right thing?

The swirl of information and misinformation, opinion and conjecture, politicking and cherry-picking is overwhelming and hard to keep straight. Here’s what I think, though, and remember, I’m no politician: Those who are elected to any position, presidential office or city commission still work for the people.

It’s that simple. You don’t work for the leader of your party or the lobbyists pushing their own agendas, and you don’t have to get authorization from a chairman to speak your mind. If you have a concern, it’s your right and your duty to say what you will, rather than swallowing the PR spin that might be pushed on you by the majority or the “good ole boys” who’ve been in office for a while.

I don’t envy those in public office. I’m sure it’s a demanding job and a difficult thing to balance the requests of your constituents with what’s practical and appropriate.

I’ve only been in this “game” for a few years, but it seems to me that those who govern, those elected by the public, fall too easily into the PR machine and groupthink instead of remembering why they were given the job in the first place.

We the people put you there for a reason. And if we don’t like your performance, we’ll show our disapproval at the polls — that is, of course, so long as the polls aren’t rigged.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan Jarvi is city editor at The Mining Journal. He lives in Marquette with his wife, Sarah, and their dog, Tino. Contact him at rjarvi@miningjournal.net.