Smile Politely

Why can’t we be friends?

Recently, Angie Patton posted photos from a Young Democrats BBQ on Facebook. Republicans commented on the photos and then a republican friend suggested an event where both groups get together. Others suggested a competition, but it was decided that it would be better if we take baby steps before we are challenging each other to arm wrestling. With that, Angie made it happen.

An event is happening this Friday, July 19, at Jupiter’s at the Crossing called “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” The event is a Young Democrats and Young Republicans joint networking event. People who are engaged in the local political scene, or anyone else who wants to network with those who are, are welcomed to attend. This is cool on many levels, and a very good thing.

The people who serve in public office impact our community and the lives of our family, friends, and neighbors. Serving a term in office is a community service opportunity and those who serve can certainly make a positive impact. If you have ever said that we need more good people making decisions in our local government, you should appreciate the role the local political parties play (or could play) in recruiting and supporting candidates for public for office. 

I bring this up because just recently the local democrats launched the Champaign County Young Democrats. Even if you are an independent or a Republican like me, I feel this is a good thing, and I hope they are successful. Let’s face it — even if you voted for the losing candidate in any given election, it is a nice consolation when the winning candidate possesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful while serving in public office. Considering that politics is essentially a two-party system, even at the local level, even to a large degree in “nonpartisan” elections, it is favorable for everyone if these organizations are successful at attracting quality candidates. More specifically, there are too few people in the under-40 crowd who are involved in politics, and that is why I am especially supportive of groups like the Young Democrats and Young Republicans. 

While the Young Democrats are just getting the ball rolling, the Republicans have been successful in Champaign County developing a pool of prospective candidates and this has shown in recent elections. Over the past five to ten years, the local republicans have put together a respectable — strike that — damn impressive farm team. When you look at names like Jason Barickman and other younger leaders throughout the republican ranks that have been involved with the Young Republicans, it is easy to appreciate that local republicans are in a relatively strong position for years to come, with many great potential candidates in the pipeline. As it stands right now, people are mocking the republicans for hosting “Young Guns” fundraisers, while the democrats were wishing they had more young guns to support. I do not expect local republican leaders to get complacent any time soon, as there is no shortage of elected and appointed positions in local government that are in regular need of great people. Of course, things can also change quickly. 

I’ll bet there is someone reading this right now who is wanting to jump in the comment section and rip party politics, criticize the shortcomings of the political process in general, or maybe even wanting to take a shot at local party leaders or some local elected officials. Hell, I’ll bet someone out there could probably start a website and point out the opportunities for improvement in local and state government and fill it with content on a daily basis. That part is easy. The difficult part is finding good people who might be interesting in running for office (or volunteering on a campaign) and then convincing them to enter the wonderful world of politics to address the many challenges.

Let’s face it, getting into politics is not the most attractive thing in the word. All the questions prospective politicos might ask themselves can be overwhelming and can turn people off before they get started. 

  1. What will it take to mount a successful campaign?
  2. How can I get into public service and still be expected to focus on other important priorities in my life? 
  3. How do I go about raising money and volunteer support for a campaign?
  4. Does my work, community, and family experience make me an attractive candidate?
  5. Can I cope with the reality that my opponents and their supporters may criticize me publicly?
  6. Where do I start?

For a political nerd like me, I can write extensively on these questions and can engage in great conversations and debate with other political nerds. Unfortunately, the network of politicos could be larger and it would be nice to see more people actively engaged in the local process. Fortunately, for people who are looking or thinking about getting involved in some way, it is easy to navigate the political network and it is very easy to connect you with the right people. So were do you start? 

Simple. There is no better time than the present. You can come to the casual Why Can’t We Be Friends event at Jupiter’s at the Crossing. If you aren’t ready to attend social functions, you can always just let me, or any of the political nerds like me, know and we can easily get you connected with the right people. Even if you are a democrat, I know a guy who knows a girl who can get you to the right people. These types of events are great political networking opportunities, and we hope to see you there, even if you have no current desire to run for office or get directly involved in political campaigns, but might want to learn more about this as a future opportunity in a non-intimidating environment. Maybe you might simply enjoy some good conversation with informed people who are driven by the desire to improve and serve their community through this avenue of volunteerism? 

Even if you have no intention of getting into politics, you are still welcome to come. This is going to be an interesting experiment, mixing a bunch of politicos from opposite ends of the political spectrum with alcohol. What could possibly go wrong?


Check out the event listing or RSVP here.

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