The 2020 elections served as a unique moment in our country’s political system. With the highest voter turnout in a century and the most votes cast in the country’s history, the elections provide a new standard for what it means to be a United States citizen.
But what happened in Palo Alto? The city which takes pride in preaching its progressive nature elected many candidates for city council and school board who don’t reflect these values. The Campanile endorsements for both city council and the Palo Alto Unified District School Board prioritized diversity and closing the achievement gap, but it seems that many in the community vote for their property values over progressive candidates.
Even though the polls have closed, politics cannot be set aside until the next election. Regardless of political affiliation, The Campanile implores Palo Alto citizens and particularly students to hold elected officials accountable for addressing our school system’s achievement gap and our city’s diversity issues. Furthermore, in future elections, The Campanile urges voters to put the needs of struggling community members ahead of improvements in property values and tax benefits, by educating themselves regarding candidate platforms and listening to their peers.
As the Palo Alto elections demonstrated people may be less prone to change than they claim. Each election cycle voters across the country are given an opportunity to have their voices heard, but oftentimes, and in Palo Alto’s elections this year, citizens choose comfort over change. The Campanile believes that, in order to accomplish meaningful change in our community and beyond, citizens must actively participate in our democracy. This means we cannot simply be satisfied by voting. We as community members and people of the United States must take it upon ourselves to continue our civic duties and engage with issues outside of the voting booth.
The Campanile is encouraged by historic levels of civic participation, but acknowledges there is more work to be done. Though we live in the age of information, our local elections and the increasing political polarization display how Americans are doubling down on their beliefs instead of questioning them. Our democracy relies on individuals to process new information, so what happens when individuals are unwilling to question or change their beliefs? If Americans don’t change we will find out.