In case you have missed the barrage of political campaign commercials, I thought I would let you know 2024 is an election year. And not just any election year—a Presidential Election Year. 

Locally, our general election ballots will include the Presidential race, U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, City Council and Mayoral candidates, School Board elections and a host of other issues.

And it could not come at a worse time. Our civic health is not good. A recent Public Policy Institute of California survey ( found that six in 10 Californians say democracy has gotten worse in the last five years. In a 2023 survey from The Pew Research Center, 65 % of Americans feel exhausted when they think about politics. 

Worse, 55% feel angry ( And how many of us avoid family members due to polarizing conversations about politics?

Somewhere along the way, too many of us lost our inclination to find principled compromise. Perhaps worse, we have forgotten the language of respectful discourse. The result, a decline in our state of politics, the loss of respect for the institutions of government and an inability to discuss the very things we need to be discussing. In short, too often not a lot gets done.

National politics have become “all or nothing” politics. Compromise does not exist. Politicians have decided compromise means “I get everything I want, or I will stop/ tie up everything.”

What has led to this decline? A lack of civic education combined with poor examples by some in office and by many community members when choosing to participate. 

The void caused by a lack of local journalism focused on civic and political decisions is filled by unchecked social media and other unreliable sources of information. Little to no enforcement of election and campaign laws combine with a diminishing integrity among local officials to be transparent and file timely reports on who is influencing them through campaign contributions and sources of other income. 

We can change this locally. These political tendencies are here, but we can improve. I don’t think we have completely lost our ability to disagree without being disagreeable (as former Morgan Hill Councilmember Gordon Seibert was fond of saying).

How we can change and improve our civic discussion:

First, elected officials and candidates need to abide by, and live by, current rules/laws and standards. File your reports on time, be honest, practice transparency. And, as voters, we must hold them accountable

Next, bolster local journalism in every way possible—it is indispensable to civic health. 

And, voters, residents, taxpayers, neighbors: we have a responsibility as well. Learn about issues. Learn about candidates. Ask questions. Attend campaign forums/debates. Seek out and rely upon credible information.

Community forums and dialogue. Organizations can and should sponsor lively and informal gatherings for discussions with elected officials, thought leaders, activists, advocates and professionals in all walks of life—the more viewpoints the better.

Campaign forums. Campaigns in Morgan Hill used to be filled with community forums sponsored by every HOA, PTA, Community Organization—anywhere a couple of people gathered. It was an opportunity to really listen to and interact with candidates. And candidates need to attend! 

To improve our future civic interactions, we must improve civic education and make it a requirement at the grade school level. Teaching young people how to be responsible and effective citizens cannot wait until after most have formed habits and cynical views.

Rescuing democracy starts at home, and with each of us. Democracy does not run on autopilot. We are all responsible.

Larry Carr

Morgan Hill, former city council member

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