They put it all on the line, our Founding Fathers, when they signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. In this extraordinary document the 56 signers explain why they feel a new government is necessary and the extent to which they were willing to go to establish it:
“…  [W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
They describe their vision of a just government as one that derives its just powers from the consent of the governed and helps secure the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Signing the Declaration was not a pro forma exercise. Those 56 agreed “for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
The government established by 1787 is in concept the same one we have today, with executive, legislative and judicial branches; division of powers; and a system of checks and balances among the branches. Each election cycle is a celebration of the independent republic founded in 1776.
In the 21st century, though, risks are different from those in the 18th century. Are lives, fortunes and sacred honor still in the mix? Most federal and some state officials have bodyguards; few politicians dip only into their own fortunes. At times it seems that the voters have more to lose than the politicians. But whoever decides to run for public office does put her or his good name and reputation on the line.
After the frenzy of the November elections, Evanston residents will have the opportunity to elect a City Clerk, a mayor, aldermen and School Board members. Though it is barely July, already residents here are considering running for office or seeking re-election. Some have announced their candidacy; others are flirting with the notion – attending more community affairs, speaking out at public meetings, or quietly introducing themselves.
This is the time to do these things. While the weather is nice, those who are considering running for elected office have many opportunities to meet residents at the farmers’’ markets, art fairs and outdoor concerts; to listen to the concerns and ideas of others; and maybe learn about parts of the City of which they were unaware.
We applaud anyone who is willing to seek public office and hope for a robust field of strong candidates in the April 2017 City and School Board elections. Here are some of our thoughts for voters to consider over the next few months:
Look for candidates who know Evanston well enough to acknowledge its strengths and weaknesses; grasp its complexity; and understand the nuances of living in a racially, ethnically and economically diverse university community.
Look for candidates who understand the political process rather than those who are going to change everything – or anything – singlehandedly.
Look for candidates whom you can respect, not just ones who might be saying what you think.
Encourage anyone you feel is qualified to run for office and interested in doing so to take the next step.