There seems to be more of a political silly season going on across the country at the moment than we’ve seen in recent years. We’ve got our share of it in the Northwest, especially in small communities. That’s this overused, usually misguided and often failed attempt at recalling someone in elected office who is deemed to be “unfit to serve” for various “reasons.”

If you’ve spent much of your life in and around politics, you’ve seen the recall tactic tried against everyone from governors to an occasional county coroner. Some are successful; more often not.

Those behind the efforts, no matter how well-intentioned and honest they may be, should be advised of some political truisms before printing the first petition. One is that recalls are very seldom successful; about one in seven nationally. Even with extreme dissatisfaction with some officeholder, those aren’t good odds.

Additionally, people are dragged into your fight who wouldn’t otherwise oppose you. They’ve been quiet, sitting on the sidelines, feeling the complainants are probably wrong, are just bitching and don’t stand a chance. So they don’t get involved. Until the petitions start flying.

Another major reason not to try: if a recall fails … as most do … targets(s) of the drive usually gain support; more hardcore support among folks who live in the community who voted against you. In many cases, the winners feel stronger than before. A failed recall drive can give the victors encouragement they are on course and feel vindicated in whatever actions stirred things up.

Also, potential petitioners should look carefully at laws governing recalls. Nearly all specify particulars dealing with criminal convictions, malfeasance in office, immoral activity bringing shame or disgrace to the office and other similar, provable specifics. Nowhere in the laws of any state will you find reasons that include arrogance, ignorance, won’t listen, too tall, too short, difficult personality, bad grammar or poor personal hygiene.

My reading about … and listening to … leaders of many of these drives seem more to be the latter issues and less the former.

While some public servant(s) may offend the community sensibilities of a few, may be arrogant or uncommunicative, poor public relations seldom warrant recall. Nothing illegal there. May not be the most astute political course of action for someone in elective office. It’s a fact most people who are eventually voted out of some public job can usually blame bad communications. The most successful elective officials are approachable, good listeners and develop a way of making you think your opinion is important.

Another bad fallout of recalls, especially in the smaller communities, can be the interrelationship of people on both sides. Because there are so few residents, they keep bumping into each other at church, service clubs, the PTA or family reunions. Often there are marriages or other family issues that get involved. Divisions occur where they weren’t intended.

If those who really feel aggrieved are sincere and not just people with their noses out of joint, they should look among themselves and come up with a legitimate candidate or two they can support. Then do so.

It’s true “a day is a lifetime in politics.” But it’s also true if you do your homework, find and educate your candidates, raise the funds, build your grassroots base and craft your issues, the distance between elections isn’t nearly long enough. If you do it right!

Across our country right now, we’re seeing results of people unhappy with how government is operating. Nothing wrong with that. Except, when angry, we don’t make our best decisions. We don’t do our homework. We tend to overreact with bad decisions of our own. In some places, there are people being elected who advocate things that are illegal, impossible and/or poorly conceived; positions which will keep them from being effective in any meaningful manner which will result in voters who put them there being unrepresented. Dr. Rand Paul comes quickly to mind.

Recalls are serious political remedies. Like any medicine, they should be used sparingly, with great caution and only when absolutely necessary. The temperature in the body politic doesn’t often legitimately rise to the point to warrant the recall “cure.”

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