Two assignments for this week’s West Life — writing a column and compiling a list of what’s on the May 4 primary ballot in the communities we cover — came together over the weekend.
Watching the impeachment trial last week, I was encouraged and discouraged. I was encouraged that the House managers were so impressive in presenting their case and that the nine-member team had a diverse makeup. Women and men. Black, White, Latino, Asian. Longtime legislators along with colleagues capturing the public’s attention for the first time. People ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s.
But I was discouraged after the 57-43 vote to acquit former President Donald Trump of inciting insurrection. Not necessarily surprised, but discouraged nonetheless. Still, I am glad that seven Republican senators — Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman was not among them — joined their Democratic colleagues, including Sen. Sherrod Brown, in voting to convict Trump despite threats to their political careers and their lives. Those are on top of the life-threatening experience they and almost every other member of Congress went through on Jan. 6 at the Capitol. (Three current senators were sworn in after Jan. 6.)
As I often do when I observe elected officials in action, I wonder why voters put them in office. Can’t we do better than this? Don’t we want better than this? These thoughts ran through my mind as I perused the list of candidates running in the May 4 primary. This ballot will include candidates for offices such as mayor, city council and school board, many of them unopposed. I’m not suggesting that none of our incumbents should be re-elected. I’m disappointed that there is not enough desire or confidence to inspire would-be opponents.
There are other ways to be politically engaged besides running for office. Think about it. Are you registered to vote? What candidates and issues will be on your ballot and what do you know about them? Do you know who your city councilman or councilwoman is? Can you name any members of your school board? Do you ever attend their meetings? Is your mayor doing a good job? Have you ever donated time or money to a political campaign or contacted your elected representatives to share your concerns?
There’s no doubt that more people have become politically engaged in the past four years. I sometimes tagged along with my mom when she volunteered for political campaigns in the ’70s, but I didn’t remain politically active as an adult, partially because of being a journalist. That changed after the 2016 election.
I began with Get Out the Vote phone banking, not for any particular candidate or issue, and collecting signatures on petitions related to gerrymandering. In the 2020 campaign cycle, I wrote postcards to voters in other states, the perfect political effort for someone stuck at home amid the pandemic. Because I do freelance work for West Life, I don’t get involved in any campaign that might be covered by this newspaper.
I read that some of the Trump supporters who broke into the Capitol because they believed the election had been stolen didn’t even vote in 2020. Voting is the least you can do to make your voice heard. Insurrection is not an acceptable political activity.
You have time to become informed about the next election before May 4. As you learn more about local politics, maybe you’ll decide to run someday.
Molly Callahan is a writer and editor from Rocky River.