The government of a free society should never wrap itself around the collective throats of the citizenry. It should, indeed must be flexible, willing to meet the moments of history, and the obstacles of any given epoch of the supposed free nation’s existence.
To not do so is to allow the unsavory, the bigoted, the ignorant and the simple evil to seep into any cracks that emerge in a system that through its own rigidity of precedent becomes brittle.
For too long, the better angels of our society, that is to say, the more Progressive demographic have allowed first religious Conservatism, then reactionary forces, and now Trumpism to go about unabated and unquestioned in the lower levels of our federal system. It’s not just that the often-splintered Left side of the American polity has historically shown a mind-numbing lack of interest and participation in national midterm elections. Just as bad, and as we are beginning to see the much worse apathy nationwide is on the local and state level.
Laws and policies are tested on these “lower” levels of government. Experimentation can take place with far fewer spotlights shining down, making the longing for governance by celebrity that plagues our national life far less likely.
Most of the everyday issues and relief of same are in the realm of the municipal. The countywide, too. And the Left as a whole has not competed within such “small potatoes” campaigns with as much intensity as the Right, for decades.
This has perhaps slowly begun to change. A younger generation, less satisfied with being silent and more eager to demand what they are entitled to from a larger set of policy makers are, according to some indications, beginning to scratch their way into more local decision making in both elected and non-elected positions. This can only be good news for both the Left as a concept, and the country as a whole.
Still, no sane and civilized society can possibly expect even the youngest, most idealistic firebrands to pursue careers in public service if, by so doing, they endanger their lives by simply showing up in public. If such Progressive people stay away from a life, or even a few years of dedicated public service at the local or state level, there is little hope for any of us in a mere few generations or less.
The ever increasing vitriol that MAGA Nation brings to public (and sometimes closed) meetings of local officials is the most obvious example of this governmental unraveling. I’ll not baby you and provide you with every link to every story about right-wing extremists shouting down, interrupting, or otherwise threatening local officials for merely doing their jobs. Just Google some form of the phrasing I just used, and I promise you will find enough examples to make your stomach turn, if it be made of penetrable stuff.
If any class of public service is subjected to this anti-Democratic behavior from the Trumplicans more than honest local election officials, it is local school boards.
“Don’t force my kids to be healthy!”
“Down with the fake vaccine!”
“Keep CRT out of my child’s classroom!”
“Don’t let teachers indoctrinate!”
(Who are the snowflakes here again?)
And these are merely cleaner, more concise versions of the cruel chaos spread by the local Right, in love with their own sense of menace. Not only is each claim above and others like them demonstrably false, the presentation of same, with shouting matches, thrown objects, picketing and drowning out the literal voice of both the opposition and those elected to do a job during public meetings toxifies and deteriorates the essence of democratic norms.
The goal of course is far more than to keep a well-proven vaccine out of schools, or to ban a concept that is only taught in college from entering into the second grade. It isn’t even just about propping up the white-supremacist history and nature of our society by forbidding schools to make white children feel “sad” about our racist past. The goal is far more widespread and insidious; the goal is to scare Progressive-to-Centrist public servants away from their jobs, so that the Proto-Facists and other Trump types can fill in the offices with their own ilk, and continue the poisoning from the inside.
Which is why, in states that have enough Blue in their legislatures, school boards must be made into a special protected class of government.
How? Any number of ways. Make threats against sitting members of local school boards are more serious crime, punishable by prison terms nobody wants. Strengthen the rules of public meetings to allow for expulsion of anybody that attempts, in the opinion of the chair, to disrupt a public discourse. Authorize National Guard protection for every school board members home, office, and place of official government meeting.
Any number of other avenues that would at least begin to stem a bit of the tide of the obstructionist and violent Right.
No doubt these sound like extreme measures to some. Perhaps they are extreme, but so is the problem. We needed such approaches for desegregation of schools, and we need them again today.
I hate to tell you this, but the bad guys are winning. They know, you see, what they are doing on this local level. The three D’s: Disrupt. Deceive. Destroy. Those in favor of decent human beings debating and deciding the issues they were fairly elected to decide must get with the times and accept the political maelstrom in which we are all swirling today. They must be willing to fight back in equal measure to the hits they are taking.
It should be more than an inconvenience to disrupt something as vital to the future generations of citizens as a school board’s official activities and public interactions. Its should be nigh unto impossible. The punishment for doing so should be significant enough to deter at least some of these attacks we are seeing.
Such change won’t and probably cannot come from the national circus. It must come from willing local authorities within the laws of their jurisdiction. Laws that they must be willing to change a great deal in order to fight back the wave of White Christian Nationalism, anti-science, physical intimidation and power hungry masses that have thrown themselves, like monkey wrenches, into the works of what should be a free and open republic.
Better to have some states normalize a belief in such radical changes while they can, as opposed to hand wringing across the nation as a whole and do nothing.
Protect school boards now.