Central Bucks is a wonderful community filled with kind, compassionate people. We look out for each other and we look out for the common good. Sure, we have our disagreements — whether about inflatable yard decorations or more important matters, like how our public schools should be run. Thankfully, most of us handle even our most intense disagreements with mutual respect. Because while we’re a very politically diverse community, much more unites us than divides us.
That’s why it’s so disheartening to many of us that our local politics have become so mean-spirited and even downright nasty. As leaders of the local Democratic committees in Buckingham, Doylestown, Chalfont, New Britain, and Plumstead, sure, we’ve always fought passionately for our causes and our candidates but we always tried to do so in the spirit of decency and neighborliness that defines Central Bucks. And historically, Republicans did the same. We fought, but we fought with fairness and fundamental decency. But unfortunately, in the last several years, an authoritarian faction of Republicans has not only eroded civility and basic democracy at the national level but tried to do so right here in Bucks County.
To be clear, we’re not just talking about the fact that far right members of the school board, backed by deep-pocketed ideologue donors, passed illegal policies to ban books and pride flags. We’re not even just talking about the $1.2 million in taxpayer money that the far right school board majority spent on politically-motivated lawyers and PR firms to try to defend their indefensible policies. What’s even more offensive is that, instead of just being honest with voters and trying to explain the actions they took, these same Republican school board members and their slate of candidates are literally lying to voters, saying in social media posts and mailers that they did not ban books. We know why they’re doing it — their policies are not only costly but unpopular. But they’re not trusting the voters to honestly decide these important issues. The Republican school board candidates are lying, trying to confuse well-intentioned voters who just want to know the facts.
It’s the same thing when the Republican candidates and their supporters put up their misleading signs just inches in front of Democratic signs. Again, we’re all for signs — we have them, too! But the Republicans are literally physically trying to block voters from being able to see the signs of Democratic candidates. That’s not playing fair. That’s childish. And anti-democratic.
There are too many other examples of this behavior to count. The current far-right Republican school board majority is attempting to gerrymander voting regions to give itself an unfair hyper-partisan advantage. Republican mailers and websites featuring photoshopped pictures and downright lies about their agenda and smears against Democrats. Campaigning via a super PAC run by out-of-state rebel rousers who don’t know our community values let alone have a stake in upholding them. Stealing signs and blocking signs. Personally attacking parents and students who dare to speak up for fairness. Encouraging national hate groups to descend on and politically target our community for their ideological agenda. Look, whatever side you’re on, we hope we all agree there are more important things than “sides” in our community. At the end of the day, hopefully we all just want what’s best for all our students. Can we please run our campaigns in a way that models the best of our community values for our students and children?
Recently, Mike Bateman — a Democratic candidate for supervisor in Buckingham Township — was on his way to church with his 6-year-old daughter Masie when he stopped to reposition some of his signs that had been surrounded and blocked by Republican misinformation signs. Masie asked why he wasn’t just blocking their signs in return. “Because that’s not playing by the rules of being fair,” Mike replied. “If someone thinks they need to cheat to win, is it right to cheat back?”
“No,” Masie replied. Our kids know better. But if we keep up these nasty, lie-filled politics, they might learn the wrong lessons. All of us, on all sides, must be role models.
We don’t know who will win the elections on November 7. But we can all agree that, in the end, our community’s values need to triumph. The day after the election, we all have to live together and work together to support our students and strengthen our schools. We can campaign in a way that makes coming together easier. We’re committed to doing just that, and invite our Republican colleagues and friends to join us.
Shannon Sticker, Chair, Buckingham Democrats
Connor O’Hanlon, Chair, Doylestown Democrats
Cynthia Jones, Chair, Chalfont/New Britain Democrats
Sarah Beltz, Chair, Plumstead Democrats