To win, supervisor candidates can’t forget the middle
One of the cherished beliefs of the wide range of folks who care about the future of Nevada County is that only a small minority of people – be they conservative or liberals – stand in opposition to the strong majority of right-thinking people.
As Tuesday’s election results showed, that assumption isn’t based in reality. And those who attempt to lead the community from the belief that they can safely ignore the positions of their political adversaries are almost certain to fail.
In both the races for county supervisor, the totals for candidates viewed as ideological opposites – Drew Bedwell and Bruce Conklin in District 3, Elizabeth Martin and Robin Sutherland in District 4 – are very, very close. Coffeeshop conversations for months to come will slice and dice the meaning of the votes cast for other candidates in those races.
But the fact remains: Each of these candidates was viewed as the standard-bearer for a political position, and none was able to build a majority of the voters.
The candidates who win in November, then, likely will be those who are able to build support from the middle. Their vote totals on Tuesday reflected the most dedicated of their followers, and they need more votes than that to win.
If their followers insist on ideological purity and refuse to allow their candidates breathing room to reach out to the middle, they are likely to lose in November. That may be difficult for some, particularly if they are so certain of their own beliefs that they refuse to recognize that reasonable people can believe otherwise. But it’s a job that needs to be accomplished.
And the benefits of building outward from an ideological base to include the middle won’t end on Election Day in November.
If we’ve learned nothing else in Nevada County in the past decade, we’ve learned that it’s impossible to govern effectively from anywhere but the middle. If our supervisors are to be effective, they need to be able to build a wide consensus. Those who’ve attempted to ignore the other side – no matter which side that is – have proven ineffective.
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