Together, we can

Fear and Loathing in Waynesboro column by Chris Graham

I’ve done crazy things before. Quitting my job to start a local-news website, that was crazy. Running for city council, knowing full well that I was making myself a target for all manner of unfair personal and political attacks, which then came just as I had expected, that was crazy.

The craziest yet came the night that I e-mailed Marlana Lewis to inquire about the leadership of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee.

See, I’d had this crazy idea that I would make a great local Democratic Party chair.

Turns out that the chair position was opening up because Lewis, the chair for the past four years, is moving out of town.

And so it is that I won a May election, even if it wasn’t the one that I had thought was in the cards for me when the year began.

The local Democratic Party put its trust in me last night, electing me chair at a special mass meeting that featured none of the shenanigans that local residents have come to associate with party politics.

That would be, of course, local Republican Party politics that we would be talking about there, for the record. Nobody came around after our meeting and declared that we hadn’t properly adjourned the proceedings and proceeded to declare himself chair. We won’t need to have a fact-finding committee snooping around to clean up any messes. No votes at our party convention in Lexington tomorrow morning to declare me or somebody else in charge.

We’re able to get down to business, and there’s plenty of business at hand. We’re going to be electing a new president, a new United States senator, maybe a new congressman, and it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get at it.

I think personally that we can win Waynesboro over to the Democratic column in November, too. It won’t be easy, for sure. The local GOP was pretty effective, obviously, on May 6 getting voters to the polls to vote for what will be a new ultraconservative majority. The method to their madness was right from the Republican Party playbook – basically, scare the bejeezus out of folks, swift boat as needed, lie, cheat and steal to fill in any blanks, then celebrate.

We saw this play out in the most recent presidential election, in 2004, when the month of August was marked by word from the Department of Homeland Security that we were facing a potentially serious terrorist threat that ended up being nothing more than political hot air; then September saw the term swift boat enter the lexicon in a way that made the candidate who actually served in Vietnam come across as the lesser and the guy who avoided at all costs having to do anything other than protect Texas and Alabama the greater; and October ended with Osama bin Laden essentially telling people to vote for George W. Bush by telling them to vote for John Kerry.

The local ’08 election had some interesting parallels – the endorsements from the Invista union that played up the idea that a vote for candidates who supported the creation of a utility fee to pay for stormwater improvements would force the company to close its doors and move out of town, an idea that not even the people who received the endorsements believed to be true; the constant references to a perceived conflict of interest that I would have as a journalist serving in city government, when my opponent has an actual conflict of interest working as a property manager for major developers; and the word delivered by sitting city-council members to people heading into the voting booth that I would vote to raise their taxes when my message from day one of my campaign was to the contrary.

If you had still been wondering why I decided that I couldn’t stand on the sidelines as a neutral observer anymore, it certainly ought to be clear by now. Waynesboro deserves better than to be governed by people who will stoop to these kinds of lows to get elected to office. And America deserves better than to be hoodwinked by people who tell you that they’re for the little guy but are motivated instead by the interest of protecting the likes of Big Oil and Halliburton and insurance companies that do nothing to deliver health care but are the ones who make the most profit when health-care services are provided and …

I’m on my soap box now. My point is that it’s time for a change, and I want to ask you to join us in the fight to make change happen. Put a campaign sign in your front yard. Volunteer to go door-to-door with us or spend an hour or two at campaign headquarters answering phones and talking with residents who come in with questions. Join our local committee and offer your unique skills to planning events or updating our committee website or stuffing envelopes or taking the minutes or whatever else you might do better than anybody else.

None of us can change Waynesboro, can change America, by ourselves. But together, we can.

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