Friday, February 29, 2008

The More Things Change

Power is poised to shift significantly in 2008 at all levels of government. Partly as the result of the national race for president where local factions were deeply divided and partially because of local races on the 2008 election calendar. We can expect a severe testing of political relationships that might lead to a series of interesting realignments. Certainly for political junkies and even for interested bystanders, wherever Newark ends up on the coming roller coaster of politics the ride is bound to be exciting.

Obama v. Clinton witnessed a split in the community that was so ward specific as to be unmistakable in its implications. Since that Tuesday, February 5th Democratic Primary race speculation as to how it will impact the future has been rampant. And we have seen signs of serious assessment taking place among the major local political camps. Many viewed the outcome as a test of strength for the camps; we viewed the results as predictable for the informed observer.

Reading too much into the results might create a reckless rambunctiousness among the heady setting the stage for a series of needless and counterproductive confrontations. But even cool heads will no doubt seize on the outcome to move toward strategic repositioning. Where everyone will wind up is anybody’s guess. And that is precisely what makes it worth watching. Will the Obamaization of the political landscape that has led to record turnout trickle down to school board and district leader races or will the general public reserve their concern and energy for the November elections?

Young people in Newark have not usually flexed their political muscle in the recent past. They have most often been passive observers offering critiques that serve up their reasons for non-participation in tones that alternate between elitism and nonsense. We can only hope that the Obama/Clinton fever pushes a little heat down to the local level where children and ordinary people need the best representation they can get.

All over the nation young people have sprung into action and made the statement that they are relevant. Now we get to judge their deeper interests and determine whether or not they are consistent. Once again remembering the adage that “all politics is local” we HOPE that when the smoke clears and however the new alignments stack up the sheer energy that falls out of a string of robust political encounters leaves us with a better represented community.

Some volley of activity we see reflects legitimate concern, some is mere posturing and some is insidious and calculating. The uninitiated have to be more careful than usual lest they find themselves entwined with plots and counterplots not of their making that might trigger astounding repercussions for those who get sucked in to this high stakes game. Caution is the watchword. Being too eager to be a player could lead to being played.

In some minds the rest of this political season is just the day-to-day scrimmage work that leads to the next round of municipal elections in 2010. Even so, now is a single moment amidst a never to be repeated history defining circumstance for a dynamic alteration of the political status quo. This is Newark’s period of political rebirth. The struggles are many but we see the generational struggle as most prominent.

On Tuesday February 5, 2008, Newark was portrayed as a dangerously divided city. Everything that happens politically going forward must sense the gravity of where we are. Every step forward must be intentional, thoughtful and aimed at mending the fissures that have long lurked beneath the surface but now rage in the open. It is better we know the truth of where we are than stumble around in a deep pretentious sleep. For sure we are headed for a political shake up. Newark just might realize the culmination of its political fate in 2008. We HOPE it is for the better.

February 27, 2008

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