MINOT, N.D. — A thing we often forget in politics is that the loudest voices are not always the most numerous.
We have a tendency to inflate the importance of prolific Facebook gadflies and shouty public meeting mobs. We assume they are always representative of larger political movements, and often they're not.
Case in point, consider the plight of the Recall Fargo School Board group. This bunch, motivated by pique over local masking requirements, set out to recall four members of Fargo's school district leadership.
Everyone assumed they'd at least be successful at putting the candidates on the ballot, mostly because the masking kerfuffle has dominated local and national headlines for pretty much the entirety of the pandemic. Surely there were enough anti-masking cranks out there to recall some school board members to the ballot.
Not so, it seems. Even in North Dakota's largest community, this host of incompetents couldn't get the 4,144 signatures required for each candidate.
They didn't even get close, once the invalid signatures were tossed. "Many of the signatures were considered invalid because of inadequate signatures, out-of-state addresses, addresses missing both city name and zip codes, no dates, notary errors, circulator errors and address omissions, according to the district," reporter Chris Hagen tells us. "Some of the signatures included were invalid because signees were from West Fargo, Horace, Harwood, Bismarck or Moorhead, according to the district."
What engaged citizen activist doesn't understand that the signatures to recall Fargo elected officials must come from Fargo?
Why would they even turn these petitions in, given their sorry state? On any given day, bozos like these can be seen on Facebook urging people to "do your own research" into the efficacy of masking and vaccines. They couldn't do their research into the basic laws governing petitioning in North Dakota?
Of the four recall petitions, the one with the highest percentage of lawful signatures hit just 67%.
It's a sad commentary on politics in 2021 that it's so common for those braying the loudest about political issues to know the least about how government actually works. Because there is no shame in politics anymore, I'm sure the recall campaigners will soon be hatching conspiracy theories about how they were cheated, much like disgraced former President Donald Trump has never acknowledged his national election loss.
So it goes.
Let's zoom out from Fargo, for a moment.
The anti-maskers would have us believe that they're the majority. Or, at the very least, a consequential faction of the electorate.
Based on what just happened in Fargo, perhaps they aren't.
Which is a lesson for our political discourse, generally. Everyone, from journalists and pundits to politicians and activists, has a tendency to pander to the loudest voices on a given issue, whether they're reasonable or not.
That's a mistake we need to stop making.
That's a mistake our elected leaders, in particular, need to avoid.
"Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion," wrote Irish economist and philosopher Edmund Burke, arguing for the trustee model of public representation.
Elected leaders, stop listening to the mobs.
Give us your judgment and your reason and your logic, and let accounts be settled at the ballot box. As these fools in Fargo just proved, the outcome may not be as bad as you think.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.