Politically speaking, the year 2009 was rather elliptical. It started out with tremendous promise (Obama) and ended up somewhat unsatisfying. If I were to describe it in one word, I would say priapic (as in priapism). To all my grad students who regularly read my column, I could only say this: go look up some of these words/lol.
There were a few highs and far too many lows last year; and for me, getting the opportunity to peregrinate the 40th council district while campaigning for its city council seat was a political high that words could only deflate. Many people who went up to my website (www.rockhackshaw.com) in order to view my platform, contacted me to say that they were impressed with my thinking through some of the many issues facing us here in the Big Apple. That was quite encouraging during some very tough days last summer.
While on the campaign trail, what hit me from Jump Street was the anger of many voters towards Michael Bloomberg, Christine Quinn and the council members who voted to overturn the term limits referenda. Many were telling me straight that they weren't going to vote, because "you politicians do what you want to do anyway". Many felt that their vote didn't matter much in the larger scheme of things; others -willing to engage the system- seem suspicious and leery of elected-officials altogether.
As to politics in general -and the overall legislative process at all three levels of US government- there was widespread apathy, resentment, disenchantment and cynicism. In reflected itself in the election turnout. It's not that I was surprised, it's just that the depth of all this was somewhat disturbing and depressing.
In the primary, eight out of every nine registered voters stayed home. In New York City's "election-sale" last November, less than a quarter of the registrants came out to vote. The implications of all this cannot be good for our democracy. Elected officials should show more sensitivity to the voting population. Any objective outsider can rationally conclude that our democracy is dying, even though political- science theory says that limited voting is "functional". In time we will surely know.
On a personal note, last year was the least productive for me over the last five years writing on these blogs. There were many good reasons for that. All I can say to the many fans is that I will strive to write a lil more this year; so do hang in there. And yes, it is flattering to know that so many of you enjoy my columns. I do appreciate you all.
And yet, writing on the blogs could turn out to be a rather challenging proposition for me this upcoming year; you see early last month, Councilmember Darlene Mealy (Brooklyn's 41st district) tabbed me to be her Communications Director (part time). Ms. Mealy has bravely gone where no other elected official has ever gone before: hiring me. God bless her brave soul. I could only hope we do have a productive union/alliance. With five weeks gone, I can say this: so far, so good.
Then, last week, at the first stated meeting of the city council held at City Hall, Councilmember Lew Fidler exhorted: that I need to be mindful that anything I write from here on in reflects on my boss-lady (Ms. Mealy). I must admit that I have been pondering this very issue ever since I took the job. And yes, it is a bit troubling. Then I got a call from a grad-student of mine who was elated to have received the scholarship I had recommended him for, and was thanking me profusely for my role in it; and I realized how lucky I was to have many other things to fall back on, whenever my writing or my political activism becomes frustrating, stressful or compromised: things like my activism in education, community-organizing, youth-affairs, sports, et al. And I realized right there that I didn't need a shrink to sort all this out. I just have to diversify my activities over the next 12 months.
So yesterday I decided that during the rest of this year I will travel to play more chess, scrabble and backgammon tournaments (all over the country), as therapy for my political frustrations. You see, over the next year, I really don't anticipate too many changes in the ways things get done (politically) in these here parts. I could only hope I am wrong and that some brilliant leader emerges to restore voter confidence in politicians; but until then I will try to insulate myself from more disappointment, bewilderment and angst.
Anyway folks: do stay tuned-in. And a Happy New Year to all you political junkies in blog land: hang in there. As long as there is life, there is hope.