#1) Not long ago, I happened upon a parade while away for work in West Virginia. Around the bend came the usual cavalcade of high school bands, and civic organizations, and various politicians riding in borrowed convertibles, and then: the WVU marching band, “The Pride of West Virginia.” Now, I’m a Pennsylvania kid, born and raised in this state, but I also completed one of my degrees at WVU, so I’m fairly partial to the Mountaineers when it comes to things like college marching bands.
And, pride, you know…proud of my alma mater, and proud of the work those men and women put into the precision of their feet, all in step together, and proud of the sound of instruments raised together with a snap, and proud of the thumping drums, and proud of the flourishing cymbal line, and proud of the color guard and majorettes and drum majors and the whole hooting spectacle of it all. It works, because they work together.
#2) A couple of days before I ran into that parade, I was having a drink with Brian, my Campaign Chair, and we were talking about pride and politics. And we were saying this: it doesn’t seem cool these days to admit that you’re proud of your government or, even more, that you have anything like faith in an elected official to do right, to serve the public that elected them. Indeed, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that we’re right to be the opposite of proud of our political moment, and to have the opposite of faith in the words we hear said while politicians run roughshod over our baseline civic ideals.
But here’s the funny thing: at the root level, I’m actually proud of American governance. And I do have faith in at least the principles of our politics. What hurts me most, these days, is how often the practice of our politicians violates any sense of pride I might have, insults the dignity of service and leadership, appears as the most venal of self-interested emptiness. It makes me feel a fool, to actually believe in the possibility of ethical, good government, because of what we see, day in and day out.
I don’t blame anyone, but we’ve more or less given up on being proud of the men and women we elect. We kind of just hope they don’t screw things up too bad. Along with that, we operate with a baseline distrust, even animosity, toward anything that happens in politics. Heck, my loving mom once told me, I’ll be proud of you no matter what you do in life…unless you become a politician.
Yeah, politics are awful, but they don’t need to be, shouldn’t be, can’t be if we’re going to find ourselves out of the various messes we’re in. So, I get it. But I also want better, for all of us. I want a politics that inspires pride, that deserves our respect, frankly.
#3) So that’s the connection of pride I’m thinking about right now, mid-September, a month-and-a-half from this year’s municipal election, and about eight before the primary race of my own election cycle. I’m thinking about pride, and how I want to be the kind of candidate who brings it to public service. I want to be the kind of Representative constituents can be proud of, even if (you know it will happen) they can’t always love every position I take on every issue.
#4) And parades, you know? We love them, and we’re good at them, and we do a lot of them in this part of the woods. Because they demonstrate the kind of pride we have in our towns, communities, and homes. We love a parade because it displays the best of what we hope for ourselves, the teamwork of the bands, and the waving of the politicians in those borrowed convertibles, and the candy hucking at us from fire engine windows. Parades remind us that we are a community. They let us revel, at least for an hour, in the joy of us together.
I want to be that rare politician riding or walking along the route of one of our many demonstrations of civic pride, who neighbors look to without a harrumph or an eye roll. I want to wave and look people in the eye because, nope, it’s not politics but, instead, it’s pride.
So spread the word, if you will, that I’m running in 2020. That I’m looking to take the House seat in PA #6 and be a Representative even my mom can be proud of. And that you can be proud of. And that I can be proud of being.