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Paul Cezanne: Bathers (1890/94)

"I'm learning to believe."

The Muse turns out to be the most naturally gifted retail politician I've ever known. She might be better than Bill Clinton ever was and a damn sight more authentic, too. She insists that as a candidate (for District 2 Walla Walla Port Commissioner), she only has two responsibilities, 1) talk to as many people as possible, and 2) raise money. She's so far, with two and a half months since she registered as a candidate, excelling at both responsibilities. Fortunately, she's also assembled a crackerjack campaign team, of which I'm the conscripted and periodically competent campaign manager. Still trying to find my footing, I have yet to act like a campaign manager; but the strategy seems not to have suffered from my initial ineptness.

Not a day passes, but what she returns with another astounding story.
Those she speaks with seem to need to spill their beans with her. She can be terribly disarming and has attracted support from across the political spectrum. She's not running on issues because those change and tend to be polarizing. She’s running more on process. The Port, she explains, must be the least understood of the essential local governmental bodies. Almost nobody has the slightest clue what they do, so much of her Politicking involves educating: reminding voters how their tax dollars end up in The Port's pocket so they might take an interest in how they’re spent. She's honest when explaining that she's not running because she has the solution but because she firmly believes that she's well-suited to continuing and expanding the conversation so that everyone might be better informed and better able to contribute to solving our shared problems. Too much of our self-governance has been run in the dark by somebody else. We all might benefit from some deeper involvement.

She encourages her supporters to organize house parties where she shows up to get to know those attending and for them to get to know her a bit better than the usual glancing brush a campaign trail allows. She worked her way through college selling Tupperware®, which employed the house party strategy, so she has extensive experience with what she refers to as multi-level marketing. Engage with the voter, and they will support you. Every house party probably includes somebody willing to host their own party, too. Her network inexorably expands. In the days before the gathering, campaign staff canvasses the immediate neighborhood, inviting neighbors to attend. The right people always show up.

One of her senior campaign advisors confided that anyone hearing her speak will feel compelled to vote for her. We'll see. She might just as well believe that's true because talking to people's half her job. She's raised more money so far than every other candidate running for every office this Fall, but that advantage will change. Many challenges remain, not the least: people don't especially appreciate candidates ringing their doorbells anymore. It tends to break the spell they worked so hard to induce by staring into their phone. Our social media renders us all less social. The primary moved fewer than twenty percent of our voters to return their ballot, even though it was conveniently done by mail or dropbox. Apathy remains the primary enemy of participatory democracy. The Muse insists that we're still capable of listening to each other, and she demonstrates this ability in action every single day. She returns from her forays with astonishment on her face, saying, "You will not believe what I just learned!" I'm learning to believe.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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