I offer a heartfelt Namas'cray to all of the Salem people running for Mayor and City Council seats in tomorrow's 2016 primary election.
Thank you for being crazy enough to put in so much time, effort, and money seeking an office that pays exactly nothing, requires a hell of a lot of work, and puts you in the firing line for constant criticism.
Some of you, I heartily disagree with politically. Some of you, we're political bed-fellows. Doesn't matter. I honor your craziness, your fine madness:
Carole Smith and Chuck Bennett, Mayor; Cara Kaser and Jan Kailuweit, Ward 1; Brad Nanke, Ward 3; Matt Ausec and Tiffany Partridge, Ward 5; Sally Cook and Warren Bednarz, Ward 7.
Politics really is a crazy sport.
At first I had "cruelest sport" in the title of this post, because there's also that side to politics. Putting up with the craziness/cruelty is admirable on any level of elective office-seeking, but it really deserves accolades on a local level like Salem's.
Like I said, no pay, long hours, lots of aggravation.
Of course, just about everybody happily volunteers to do things that are somewhat similar. Such as, competing in various kinds of sports as an amateur.
In many ways, politics is a sport. But here's why I consider running for political office -- and specifically, Salem Mayor or City Councilor -- is a super-crazy sport.
The "season" is one game. In golf, tennis, basketball, football, or whatever, losing or winning is temporary. Almost always another game is coming up soon. Next time... we'll learn from this loss... coming up with a better game plan. In politics, though, it's two or four years before another chance. And maybe never.
In Oregon, the "final score" pops up abruptly. I really feel for candidates on election night, May 17. Since we have vote by mail, ballots are tabulated quickly on election day. Often, if not usually, results are available online a few minutes after 8 pm that stand up. Meaning, the winner is known. It's akin to playing a game hard for months, but not knowing if you're winning or losing. Then, when you're exhausted, the final score pops up. In most other states, returns dribble in, so you have time to adjust to the outcome. In Oregon, it's pretty much Instant Joy or Sorrow.
Rules are loose. Trick plays abound. All sports have rules. So does politics. However, the political game is played pretty fast and loose. Even more so than in football, say, where arguably holding or pass interference could be called on almost every play, if the referees were sticklers. So feelings get hurt. Sort of like when a team goes for a touchdown in the last 30 seconds even though it is ahead 48-0. Hey, you're supposed to take a knee! But the rules allow it.
The stakes are large. So is disappointment. Candidates for political office, especially in local races, run because they care about their community. When they lose, it must feel like more than a personal loss. Wanting to do something positive for their fellow citizens, they've failed. (Well, the way I see it, actually they've won, no matter the outcome, because running for office is such a positive thing to do; but I'm sure it hurts a lot to come up short at the ballot box.)
There's more crazy aspects to the sport of politics, but I'll stop here. With a final thank-you to the candidates, and a hope for the political scene in Salem:
Let's remember that politics is a game, albeit a serious and important one. Both teams going out together after a game for beers, pizza, and some laughs is a big part of many amateur sports. There's no reason politics can't be somewhat the same.
Fight. Battle. Scream. Yell. Push. Argue. Leave it all on the field.
Then, when the match is over, do our best to remember that the Bigger Game is life itself -- way beyond politics.