You have to admit, even with today’s three-ring-circus political atmosphere, governance in America is darned exciting.
For some, the excitement has been generated by electing an outsider to be the president of the United States, then watching as Donald Trump goes about his daily tweet habit of ruffling just about everyone’s feathers.
For many others, the excitement is generated by watching a federal government in virtual and real chaos, wondering what will happen next, and striving to keep your soaring blood pressure from triggering a serious health issue.
Not since the Cold War standoff with the Soviet Union have so many Americans actively considered ways to survive a nuclear war. Global tensions mean many of us are thinking about the end game, feelings that have emerged since last November.
But even considering the roiling mess in Washington, one fact is abundantly clear — we’re getting really excited about politics again. Angry and convulsive perhaps, but excited all the same.
And it’s not just a draining-the-swamp thing. Ruffled feathers are causing a surge of the old competitive juices about local politics. Take Lompoc, for example.
Actually, Lompoc politics have seemed near or beyond the boiling point often in recent years. We’ve written about the divisions in the Lompoc Valley many times, generally critical of the Lompoc City Council and other official and quasi-official city agencies.
The latest Lompoc dust-up revolves around two issues — the regulation of marijuana businesses, and a potential voter rebellion against Mayor Bob Lingl.
The City Council adopted a marijuana-regulation ordinance early this month, but many residents don’t like it and are actively seeking to put a temporary hold on the rules, so that city voters can decide in a referendum to be placed on the November 2018 ballot.
In response to that effort, a separate group of citizens is exploring the possibility of recalling Lingl, who was elected to a second two-year term as mayor in November 2016, and who opposed the marijuana ordinance.
All these moving parts contribute to the sense of chaos in Lompoc city government, but the fact is, this sort of citizen involvement is what makes our form of democracy work.
Many elected officials — at all levels of government — might prefer that constituents just disappear into a sphere of silence after an election, and unfortunately, that happens all to often. We see it in the empty seats at council and county Board of Supervisors meetings. We hear it in the silence from the audience when elected officials make life-changing decisions that affect everyone.
Given a choice between those absences and silences at public meetings, and the tumult of a packed meeting room alive with voices and shouting, we’ll take the latter every time.
Because there is nothing worse than an elected body making public-policy decisions in a vacuum, without hearing from constituents and therefore not knowing what those citizens want from government.
In that context, the contentious near-mayhem that swirls around the Lompoc City Council and its members’ decisions is a good thing. It means the governed are listening, paying attention. It also means that if their elected representatives do not listen or respond to constituent demands, the next re-election campaign will be more interesting to watch.
We seem to have entered the age of contention, exemplified by a president who will tweet insults in the morning, then pat the target of those insults on the back for a job well done by mid-afternoon.
Governance is not like sausage-making. You do want to watch how it happens.