Do The Work, Pay Attention Before Elections!

By Barney Blakeney  

We’re down to the wire with just under two weeks before the 2018 general elections and I’m still undecided about a lot of the races.

People keep telling us we must be informed voters, but it’s so hard getting good information. It’s a lot of work!

I guess there’s only one way to really be informed about making political decisions – you’ve just got to put in the work and pay attention all the time. It don’t work paying attention only at election time.

As we saw with the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination, if you wait to get the report at election time, you may not get all the information you need to make informed decisions. And you can’t depend on the credibility of others.

In the game of politics, people sell credibility. One guy I thought was credible, while campaigning as a paid consultant for a local candidate, asked me to “join him” in voting for the candidate. How the heck can I “join him” in voting for the candidate? That guy can’t vote in this community – he lives in D.C.! He’s being paid to campaign for that candidate!

I’m torn about a lot of the local political races not only because of the misinformation, but also because of the lack of information. Throw in cultural and ethnic considerations and it gets even crazier. See I like to go Black – I support Black, buy Black, and yes, I like to vote Black. But I’ve learned that just being Black ain’t always enough to merit support. If things ain’t quite right, you have to give it more thought. Some other things also may need to be considered.

So I’m lookin’ at the various races and trying to figure out what move to make. I’ve already figured out that I can’t look to other folks to give me an indication of who are the better candidates. They’ve got their own reasons for supporting a particular candidate – some are getting paid, others have some obligation or another to the candidate and there are the folks who honestly believe in the candidate. They all feel their support for whichever candidate has some validity.

One race I found extremely distressing – the race for Charleston County School Board. Eleven candidates are vying for four seats on the board. Three of the candidates are incumbents. There’s a lot about the Charleston County School Board races that would be funny if it weren’t so serious. I once talked to a politician who said elections really are about the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know. The school board races are classic examples of such.

I submit that Charleston County schools are not dysfunctional. They operate just as they are designed to operate. Charleston County schools are designed to provide a quality education to some students, but not all students. Otherwise the diametrically opposed educational outcomes achieved at North Charleston High and the Academic Magnet High schools wouldn’t exist only blocks apart.

So now, four weeks out from the elections, various groups are spending googobs of cash to campaign for candidates we know have been complicit in that travesty, at whatever level of responsibility, as well as some people most of us have never heard about.

I saw one campaign ad featuring a guy who for, all of his political career, watched as public schools in Charleston County deteriorated to its current state without mumbling a word now advocating for candidates! What’s crazier still is no matter who is elected, when the dust settles after November 6, we’ll still be left with the same system. What’s more needed is systemic change rather than changing the players in the system.

Perhaps that’s where paying attention all the time makes more difference than only paying attention at election time. And paying attention all the time is where the work takes place. There’s always a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff that requires our attention. Still you gotta do what you gotta do. Electing good representation at election time requires paying attention to the need to develop good representation before election time.

Black students comprise about 40 percent of all public school students in Charleston County, but the Black community has not paid sufficient attention to the need to develop the representation that can look out for those students’ best interests. So here we are, four weeks from the school board elections watching some guy whose economic and political agenda resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of Black people over the past several decades tell us who we should elect to the school board.

Tell me that ain’t some funny shiggity! And as Ray Parker Jr. said, all the press conferences in the world can’t change that! We’ve got to pay attention and do the work, people!

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