In the upcoming Rhinebeck Village election, one side claims to be about “people not politics.” They say traditional parties are irrelevant in small places like ours, while accepting endorsement, and presumably funding, from the local Republican committee.
Those of us who may be unconvinced by their slogan might be reassured if the slate rejected the Republican administration’s attacks on refugees, immigrants, and other travelers. What does this polarizing national policy debate have to do with a small village like Rhinebeck? Eleanor Roosevelt explained it best in a speech she delivered to the United Nations in March 1958.
“Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
Rhinebeck is one of those small places. Places where we – citizens and elected officials alike – can take a stand. Any “people not politics” candidate must agree on this question. Those who do so won’t stand alone. Local governments from Talent, OR, to Milwaukee County, WI; Broward County, FL, to South Euclid, OH, have passed resolutions declaring themselves welcoming communities. And, New York’s attorney general has provided guidance on how to do so here.
Perhaps in some years, party really might not matter. This in NOT such a year. What’s happening in Washington is appalling – immigrants and refugees demonized, air and water protections gutted, plans to deprive millions of health insurance, the list goes on. If this slate is truly about “people not politics”, they must give us confidence that they do not share the values of the national Republican Party. If they can’t do so, they should run as Republicans.
And all of us who care about democratic values must vote the Democratic slate.