Four and a half years ago, my family moved from Montgomery County, MD to Fairfax County, VA in search of better governance at both the county and state levels. Did we find what we were looking for? Well, marginally.
In four short years, we’ve witnessed what seems to be an inexorable march toward bloated government and higher taxes, an ever-expanding retinue of self-described “non-profits” with their hands out for taxpayer funding, public school systems grappling to cope with an unexpected influx of students (many of whom arrived illegally in this country), palpable friction between public school administrators and parents concerned about school curricula, a growing drug epidemic, human trafficking horrors, and a breakdown in the ability of local law enforcement to interface with federal immigration authorities to identify law-breakers.
These are challenges to civil society. They are not unrelated, and they are not unsolvable. To solve them requires discipline, honesty, respect for the rule of law, and, perhaps most importantly, citizen engagement.
Have you ever ended up carrying the load of work because others didn’t step up to help you? It felt kind of lonely, didn’t it? Or did you decide not to get involved with a situation, and wound up unhappy with the results? When it comes to our precious privilege of self-governance in this American Republic, not enough people engage with the political process, and then end up complaining about the results.
This brings me back to my original testimony about why my family moved from Maryland to Virginia. Another reason we moved was to escape the stranglehold of a one-party political system that was stifling competition and debate. After four years in the Commonwealth, it’s beginning to feel like Maryland. But it’s not just because people disengage from the political process that we get sclerotic governance. It also can be because political party leadership becomes sclerotic, chokes off competition and discourages citizen participation.
Fairfax County citizens have opportunities to get involved with their local political parties early in 2018 when both Republicans and Democrats are electing new leadership of their Fairfax County Committees. Engage with these parties. Ask hard questions, especially of those who want to represent you. Decide what you can do in 2018 to breathe new life into representative governance, governance that is supposed to represent YOU, but that may be representing established interests.
In this new year, resolve to be an informed and engaged citizen. Results may not always go your way. Sometimes, fighting the good fight has its own rewards. And Fairfax County will be the stronger for it.