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Democracy's Basics

April 7, 1992



CURRENT anger with Congress - and political incumbents in general - may or may not last until November. Voters have a way of reelecting their own representatives while grumbling about the ineptitude or dishonesty of other public servants.

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Still, there's nothing wrong with expecting high standards of those in public office. It is not too much to expect that they put the public good above personal gain.

But beyond anger, frustration, and black humor, more constructive roles are available to American citizens.

Most important, they can register and vote their consciences. They can also write letters. They can join and participate in political parties or interest groups that represent their views.

And they can run for office themselves. Many of the figures on the national scene today began their careers by running for local office. Sadly, each year come stories of town or county elections in all parts of the United States that go uncontested for lack of candidates. Many of these are part-time positions that don't require the office-seeker to give up his or her current career.

Today, thousands of honest, hard-working, capable citizens occupy political office at every level. Many had to overcome great obstacles to participate in our democracy. Some overcame age stereotypes. At age 92, Polly Rosenbaum is running for her 22nd term as an Arizona state representative. She's an active advocate of public education and libraries who, according to her secretary, "goes like a house afire." Others have overcome poverty or lack of education. Many are serving despite great family demands.

Those disgusted with politics as usual must be willing to do more than "throw the bums out." They must actively support bringing good people in. On each of our short lists of possible candidates for the full range of offices in our democracy should be someone whose views we know well: ourselves.