We all know the drill. Big rallies with politicos fulminating about one thing or another, sometimes with prominent allies thrown in. Chants and cheers, paraparnalia and merchandise hawkers, attack lines and grandiose claims of a new day or catastrophic implosion. Energizing the base, demoralizing the opposition. And afterwards the media judgment - the numbers scorecard. Bigger or smaller than expected. More or less "energy" than anticipated. Bottom lines of evaluation.
Don't get me wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with big rallies. They serve a purpose and prove a point. We used to call them "actions" in my community organizing days like the one pictured above, with our turnout numbers frequently topping 2,000 in places like Tucson, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Albuquerque and even Yuma, Sedona and Henderson. They worked to help build powerful organizations, do public business and prove that a shitload of folks cared enough to show up in person. But they were the icing on the cake, ratification of work that had gone on for months, sometimes years. It's easy to forget in the glow of mega turnouts that the real action - where people actually changed, where perspectives were actually altered - happened in small groups; before, after and sometimes even during the big events (when time was blocked out for breakouts).
In Sometimes David Wins I narrate a few of those conversations, trying to make the point that in tandem with the big actions they were the drivers of change.
Recent events in Oracle jibe with something I discovered a long time ago. Some politicos (whether office holders or candidates) are less capable than others of engaging in the give and take of conversation, even when circumstances are optimal. Like some preachers, teachers and bureaucrats (not to mention residents), they're over scripted and under "relatable". And who can blame them? For politicos the stressors go up with the stakes and going off script is dangerous when everyone has a smart phone and maybe an axe to grind. The same could be said about preachers, teachers and rest.
One of my observations is that Oracle is a pretty safe space for conversations. But this may also true of neighborhoods, schools, religious congregations, and organizations of all sorts where the face-to-face craft of conversation is respected, encouraged, taught and learned; that is where conversation is practiced.
I don't know for sure how to answer the question. Oracle is small, politically close to 50-50. Obviously not home to a tranche of votes for any candidate or either party. Nor is it home to the rich and powerful. So what's the attraction?
Lauren Kuby, candidate for the Arizona Corporation Commission, was the third major candidate to visit Oracle, The others were Kris Mayes and Katie Hobbes. All of the events were conversational which was the point of the invites. A small amount of money for each was raised but chicken feed in the larger scheme of things.
I went to all three and was impressed by the simplicity of the formats. Direct questions, direct answers. Absent was the bombast and catastrophe mongering that seems to characterize so much political discourse these days. I may have to eat my words down the road but so far Oracle has weathered the epidemic of what pundits/big media call "polarization" pretty well.
That's got me thinking about the "why". I'm trying to formulate an answer.
Kaz and I have known Ellie Brown for many years. Through St. Helen Church, the Oracle Community Center, Sun Life Clinic, the Oracle Fire Department, Deb Breen's Zumba class - the list goes on and on. This knowing helps explain why we along with so many others supported her run for Copper Corridor Justice of the Peace. We believe she will do a great job in a position that is of critical importance to our town.
Oracle is a community of quiet successes. Most never attract much public attention. And so it goes. Until a crisis breaks out or a key political decision focuses the spotlight on one or another problem or local institution.
The position of justice of the peace is pivotal because so many of the trials and tribulations, the family disputes, the acts of desperation and addiction - not to mention outright criminality - find their way to our local courthouse.
In Oracle and places like it a mix of broad community experience along with deep family roots and relationships is foundational to sound judicial decision making - which is exactly what we can expect from Ellie in the coming years.
Kaz and I moved to Oracle in 1979. The house we bought dated to the late 1940s. With little advance knowledge of the place, we set out to build a new life together, intending to settle in and raise a family.