Jim Smith on Our Facebook Community and Political Labels

Facebook community chatter. Not so productive. It drives residents to tune out, participate less, and potential residents to flee. The good news is the Facebook dumpster fire doesn’t represent the Town I’m seeing from my vantage point running for Town Supervisor. The conversations I’ve had, one at a time over the last seven months, with folks that don’t look, think, love, speak, pray or vote like me, have really blown me away. In many ways it has reshaped my entire outlook on our Town. This is a community of really nice people, with differences for sure and thankfully, but still so many common threads that tie us together.

Focus Local. I’m asking voters in our Town to stand up to coarse online politics and vote for me because of the unrivaled experience, expertise and leadership that I will bring to bear on our Town’s biggest challenges; and the creativity, fresh ideas and passion I have to convert our biggest opportunities into something special for our community. Nothing more than that. That is the essence of local elected office and in many ways I don’t think you need to read any further.

Yes, but. I know for some my political philosophy is also important, so I’ll mention it here. I don’t wear it on my sleeve, but I also don’t wear a wrongly defined version of it as a scarlet letter on my chest like some would prefer.

I’m a centrist and a moderate. If you must label me. I think this position has historically been very important in American politics. It is by no means perfect and neither am I. But I pass no judgment on where you stand either. As Town Supervisor I would go even further, I would celebrate where everyone stands. I believe that makes us a stronger community and should enable us to progress. And it isn’t just talk. When I’m out in Town I’m just as likely to spend 30 minutes with someone like former Town Supervisor candidate Victoria Alzapiedi, not because I expect to earn her vote, but because I value her perspective and it informs mine.

What is a centrist? Someone whose core political beliefs are not entirely represented by either political party. As a centrist I believe there are really good ideas in both the Democratic and Republican parties (Maybe fewer and fewer these days, but who’s counting). Republicans, for example, bring value because they do not believe government has all the answers, they are generally more fiscally conservative, and they encourage personal responsibility as a means to success and innovation. Democrats, for example, seem to excel at social tolerance and civil rights, environmental protection, and protection of the disadvantaged. As a centrist, I believe in both the need to address climate change and the need to address unfunded mandates that make for a crushing tax burden.

Like many people, neither major party really speaks to who I am. I’ve been a Democrat and a Republican and my beliefs haven’t changed but the parties certainly have. The use of party labels has changed too; today more than ever they are used to divide us. I don’t think our Town can afford this. It is how we get nothing done.

What is a moderate? Someone who is a humble problem solver. Not ideological or party focused. Someone who can assess the complexity of the playing field, empathize with everyone, be tolerant and accepting, and not be judgmental or act with disdain. This is NOT the same or as easy as taking the average position, not having an opinion, or being a populist. Being a moderate is searching for some common ground as well as demonstrating leadership by helping craft the best path forward and delivering results. It is also about being skeptical and not allowing politics to govern our lives. Moderates have been fundamental to the success of our country; Benjamin Franklin as our first example.

Team New Castle and the Serve America Movement (SAM). I personally believe that the Independent Party Team New Castle represents a moderating force, with a reasonable and rational problem-solver mentality. And the SAM Party of New York, made up of disaffected Democrats and Republicans, is also a moderating and centrist force.As the political pendulum swings harder and wider with every passing election season, we all have a role in getting in front of it to slow it down before it flies off its pivot. I don’t know how that effort will fare nationally, but I am incredibly optimistic that we can do that locally. And it does not need to wait until after November 5th.

Jim Smith is a candidate for New Castle Town Supervisor, along with Team New Castle slate mates, Lauren Levin and Sean Maraynes, candidates for Town Council.