—- By: Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong —-
Each Sunday during football season, the Baltimore faithful don their gear, and cheer on the Ravens. Those purple jerseys, t-shirts, hats, scarves, pants, are worn by Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Green Partiers, Libertarians, even Socialists. For three hours, what divides us is replaced by what unites us. Simply stated, the Ravens are good, the Steelers are bad. That absolutism is fine when it comes to sport, but it is dangerous when it spills over into politics.
This past weekend, I was out canvassing with Michele Guyton, democratic candidate for state delegate in district 42B. Often, before my greeting was complete, I was summarily dismissed with,“I’m a Republican”. Conversation ceased, and we parted ways. Please know that I am not too naïve to believe that canvassers for the Republican candidates no doubt experienced similar encounters upon knocking on Democratic doors.
It is no secret that today politics is sport. It is us versus them. That slow march toward a more perfect union together has been replaced by winners and losers where middle ground has given way to a gaping chasm. Our minds are made up by the team color – red or blue – that we wear. Agreeing with the other side on this issue or that issue is tantamount to a Baltimorean wearing a Steeler’s jersey. Heresy!
Politics used to be a coming together of diverse ideas and perspectives; ingredients put into a pot heated up, stirred together creating something more than the sum of their parts; something new, a whole made up of bits and pieces, to sustain and nourish us all.
If Democrats and Republicans share a love for the Ravens, what else may they have in common? I’ll wager that:
- We all want better schools.
- We all want government to work more efficiently.
- We all want the opportunity to better ourselves.
- We all want a clean environment.
- We all want to be safe.
- We all want to be healthy.
These goals will not be met if we are unwilling to work together, to respect, acknowledge and consider all ideas, and to be willing to compromise to move the ball down the field. That is why it is less important what party a candidate is linked then the candidate’s qualifications, temperament, character, independence and flexibility.
If a candidate is simply a pawn of party politics, then we are all doomed to the status quo. If we want progress, we must have the courage to eschew political parties, and look at the people running.
When it comes down to the race for State Delegate in 42B, I ask all of my neighbors, red, blue, green and polka dot to take a hard look at Michele Guyton just like Larry Hogan did. When Governor Hogan needed to fill a space on the State Board of Education, he chose the most qualified person for the job, who happened to be from a different party.
With a PhD in Psychology, specializing in Developmental Psychology from Brandeis University, Michele has developed and implemented programs as diverse as parenting classes for inmates in a federal penitentiary in North Carolina, positive discipline and bonding activities for women and children in domestic violence shelters in Iowa, and a recent Maryland Health Charities disabilities outreach grant to underserved school systems.
She currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Tourette Association of America Chapter serving Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia and is the co- founder of the Baltimore area support group for families with Tourette Syndrome and associated disorders. She became involved with this work because she is the mother of three boys with various disabilities, including Tourette Syndrome, who have benefited from special education services in our schools. Michele’s life has been in the services of others.
Fiercely independent, she is more than willing to follow the science wherever it may lead and has publicly supported an independent entity to redraw our political geography. Michele has worked bipartisanly in Annapolis get things done. She recently voted to approve a Charter School in Baltimore County, has voted yearly to end high stakes testing, supported Hogan’s accountability initiatives, and worked to enact the bipartisan Safe to Learn Act through the Center for School Safety.
Voting the party line is easy, but politics isn’t easy. Democracy isn’t easy. Civic engagement is not easy. We need to honor the process by looking at the candidates as people not as parties and vote accordingly. Then we can all put on the purple jersey and cheer those Ravens to victory.
– Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong, Lutherville-Timonium
Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong is an environmental educator, county foster-adoptive resource parent, Baltimore County Public School parent and PTA Treasurer, who also recently ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in the County Council District 3 primary race. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.