Update: this post about local politics, with an optimistic final sentence, was published before the morning and afternoon events in Washington. It has always been true – and always will be true – that what harms the country harms the city; what stains the nation stains the city. Every moment of opposition to Trump and Trumpism has been justified; we have been proved about right about our unworthy adversaries time and again.
Original post follows —
Whitewater, like communities across Wisconsin, will have local races in 2021 for common council and her public school board. While council races extend no farther than the city limits, the Whitewater Unified School District stretches over several communities, of which Whitewater proper is only a part.
A few remarks —
City of Whitewater. There are four seats up for election within the city, two of which (an open at-large seat and an aldermanic district seat) will be contested. Two other races (each for aldermanic district seats) are uncontested. The proportion and identity of contested and uncontested races was predictable; there are no surprises.
Whitewater Unified School District. The school district will see five candidates vie for two seats, in a process that will winnow one candidate in a February primary and the remaining four candidates to two in the April general election.
Different Conditions in the City and the District. For many years, Whitewater has been mostly stagnant, in that condition of inertia in which bodies at rest remain so absent an external force acting upon them. There is no such force in Whitewater, and anyone assessing accurately the political climate in the city would see as much. Whitewater is no longer a conservative city, but she is certainly not a radical one, either. Imagining Whitewater – of all places – as a city best by radicals who were likely to precipitate a conservative backlash was always a misguided notion.
A few non-violent protests are not expressions of radicalism; they’re the exercise of lawful freedom of speech and assembly. Most residents of Whitewater easily see as much.
The school district, however, is more divided between the city and the smaller nearby towns of which it is composed – divided by educational outlook, politics, and culture. There is not, and it’s unlikely that there will be, a consensus between parents in these divergent communities. Anyone running to produce a consensus is in for a hard time, if not disappointment. Anyone running to advocate for a particular consistency will face repeated disagreement, if not disappointment.
The pandemic didn’t create divisions within the district; the pandemic revealed divisions that have only grown year over year between Whitewater and nearby towns. The district of thirty years ago no longer exists and will not return.
Field Study. For anyone observing, assessing, and commenting about Whitewater, these elections will be a welcome opportunity for field study. A short space of time (three months until the April 6th election) will hold within statements, publications, meetings, and forums for review. It’s as though someone booked a safari only to see even more fauna and flora than the tour guide promised. (Admittedly, with the occasional hyena thrown into the assortment.)
Not a bad start to the year, actually…