The day of reckoning hss come. We trust that the Rising Tide’s horde of nonpartisan election observer-volunteers is in place to monitor the election process in the CNMI. They might learn a thing or two about the efficiency and effectivity of the process. Might even let us know about it. In any case, a nonpartisan presence in a heretofore adversarial and divisive community event is a hopeful sign of the direction we are taking. We support the growth of the tribe!
Hopefully, our registered voters are taking the time to exercise their responsibility to cast their votes. Citizenship has become the skeptics’ punching bag of late, and the percentage of those who make it to the polls, voters and observers, mirrors the state of participation in this republican process of choosing representatives. Democracy as the meaningful engagement of all sits by the wayside.
If our reading of the current pulse is close to accurate, the election will also reflect the popular sentiment regarding Gov. Ben Fitial’s demonstrated accountability to his constituency. Or, the absence of one, some would quickly add. The recent impeachment process against the governor revealed a divided line in the Legislature, and the voters’ response will reveal if our representatives really represent the actual voters’ sentiment, one way or the other.
Expanding the political process beyond the partisan line is, of course, the task of communal decision-making. Were we to view the social process as involving three dynamics, the sustenance pole we would label the economic, the cultural being the significating pole, the political would be the organizing pole.
In a rational scheme, the political as an organizing pole is about establishing order—defense of the sovereign realm from external danger, domestic tranquility among residents, and a legal corpus to regulate rights and behaviors. To establish order requires structures of justice—a viable legislative consensus, equitable adjudicating procedures, and accountable executive authority. Equity and order within a community is for the sake of common welfare that secures every one’s existence, practices political freedoms, and lends significant venues of engagement for all. As all rationale maps do, they provide direction as an analytical tool, not pictures of reality.
(You might guess that I teach social studies, particularly on the social process. I taught 6th grade at PSS focusing on ancient civilizations. It was heavy on the cultural pole of wisdom, style, and symbols. I came to Shenyang Aerospace U to lecture in Economics—resources, production, and distribution.)
Now, back to the political pole of our rational map applied to Commonwealth local politics. We are weak on a functioning legislative consensus, anchoring on the literary and less on customary practice. Executive authority hinges on power and status, in the current case, perceived to be whimsical, if not altogether criminal in its habitual use of emergency powers.
A colleague is less charitable. He says that the Legislature recycles the same manure and the executive is draped with shit. The Judiciary has its head up in the sky cogitating the merits of Latin and English precedence and country western TT procedures, rather than on the virtues of common sense. Change is nothing but a Russian roulette with dancers in all branches of governance only changing partners, do-si-do. No one ever questions the fact that decision-making seems to fall by default to bodies that refuses to make them, or make them totally unrelated to the mathematics of reality. It is not enough that citizens get mad, he adds. It is time that citizens create new venues for political participation.
Whatever objections one might have of Glen Hunter/Tina Sablan and their ilk, their effort is gnawing at the flesh of the matter—citizens’ participation in the function of governance! But as diagnosis does not guarantee cure, prognosis involves a lot of work, actual and imaginal. Thus, those who organize "for" more than "against" in the Commonwealth face a formidable organizing challenge when addressing what next to do after the elections.
For now, the task is to the polls. Divisiveness has crept into even clan gatherings. This is fine. It is not so when we allow divisiveness to be adversarial rather than just not sharing the same sentiment, or not viewing things from the same perspective, nor heading in the same direction. If we allow divisiveness to take charge of us, rather than choose to be in charge of it, then we, as a community, fail ourselves.
Should the voters choose to make Uncle Ben’s perspective a minority opinion, it merely begs, nay, it intensifies the question of governance. That requires better-attended town meetings, larger deliberative circles, and wider collegial roundtables. We mean ordinary folks willing to take the time rather than leaving it to lawyers and professional politicos to practice a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
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Jaime R. Vergara (firstname.lastname@example.org) previously taught at San Vicente Elementary School on Saipan and is currently a guest lecturer at Shenyang Aerospace University in China.