Opinion

Lot to be learned from Enumclaw election | Rich Elfers

Elections are always a learning opportunity about human nature. This most recent election was no exception. There was much to learn about how people think and respond.

I’d like to share six major tentative conclusions. These conclusions are not based upon statistical data or scientific observation; they are just anecdotal (stories) that I’m going to use to illustrate my perspectives.

Campaign signs: In one of the Enumclaw City Council races, one candidate put up a lot of signs and his opponent didn’t put up any. The one who put up signs won. It seems that if a candidate doesn’t put up any signs, people conclude that he/she doesn’t care. In the fire commissioner and Proposition 1 races, both sides posted signs, but the ones with more signs lost the contest. People don’t seem to vote based upon the number of signs.

The advantage of long-term residence: There seems to be a belief in Enumclaw, and I’m guessing elsewhere, too, that if someone has lived his/her whole life in a town, that person automatically cares more about their community than someone who has not. I’ve seen this occur several times in my 22 years in Enumclaw.

The need for community involvement: To get elected a candidate has to have some level of community involvement. Each candidate needs a reservoir of voters who personally know the candidate and his/her level of involvement to the city: Rotary, Arts Alive!, Plateau Outreach Ministries, Neighbors Feeding Neighbors, or the Chamber of Commerce, to name a few. The most successful candidates are those who are involved in community service. That’s a lesson for future candidates.

Anti-union sentiment: One candidate had a long association with a union. This may not have set well with some people, especially conservative business types. Americans are individualistic and unions are collectivist (strength in numbers).

Unions run against this individualistic grain of American culture. Let me hasten to add that unions do play an important part in helping to create a middle class in America. They are necessary to maintaining checks and balances with business.

Having been both in a union and also in management, I can see the arguments from both sides.

The power of the press: I was pleased to have The Courier-Herald run several candidate debates, both for the fire district issues and city council candidates. My experience on the city council taught me early that the Fourth Estate—the media—plays an extremely important role in educating the public about the issues before government bodies. I have come to believe that government does not function well without a strong and involved press.

You may have noticed The Courier-Herald did not take any stands on candidates or issues; instead it allowed candidates to speak for themselves, using their own words, instead of a reporter’s. I liked this approach because it took away any potential bias from the paper’s writers.

Voter turnout and those who voted for candidates who withdrew: Two candidates for city council had withdrawn, one early, and one in the last weeks of the election. Both got about 40 percent of the vote. This fact absolutely amazed me. What were the voters thinking? Was it a protest vote? Were that many voters detached from the facts that they voted out of ignorance? I don’t know, but the high numbers deeply bother me.

It also troubles me that such a small percentage of eligible voters actually sent in their ballots. The percentage was in the low forties. Such low numbers show to me that voters aren’t really tracking what what’s going on in local government.

In conclusion, these are six unscientific generalizations gleaned from the recent election that gave me a deeper understanding of Enumclaw and it’s voting populace.

For a political junkie like me, they are the meat and potatoes of my life. I spend many hours pondering the idiosyncrasies of human behavior and dynamics of these local elections.

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