OPINION: October Cheers & Jeers

With the end of the 2020 election just around the corner — please remember to get those ballots into a ballot drop box by 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3 — we wanted to kick off this Cheers & Jeers column with a resounding CHEERS for the League of Women Voters of Clark County.

For anyone not familiar with the nonpartisan League, you should know that the group has been working overtime to bring Clark County residents the type of unbiased, quality information we all need to become informed voters. 

The League has hosted dozens of candidate forums and informational presentations during the lead up to the Nov. 3 general election and all are easily accessible through CVTV.org and the League’s own website at lwvclarkcounty.org. 

The group’s mission? To “empower voters and defend democracy.” It’s vision? “A democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.” 

CHEERS to all of that, especially during an election cycle that has not only been one of the most contentious in most of our lifetimes, but that has seen an unsettling amount of violent threats coming from armed, far-right groups egged on by our own president. 

“A review of more than 80 far-right groups by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project and MilitaWatch shows an increased risk of violence on and around Election Day,” New York magazine reported on Oct. 23. “The report provides fresh evidence that while there is an extremist threat to public safety, it’s coming from the right and not the left. Trump’s denunciations of antifa, which have been picked up by other Republicans and some Democrats, are a smokescreen. Far-right militias are more active, and more dangerous, and they’re growing at a disturbing clip. In Trump, many see a champion.”

Another recent report shows that these far-right “militias” (others prefer the term “domestic terrorists” since a militia is a civil force used to supplement a regular army, and the folks threatening to derail our democratic elections, kidnap/harm elected officials like Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and kill police are definitely not supplementing anything except their own deranged conspiracy theories) pose threats of election-related violence across the country, including a heightened risk in our neighboring state of Oregon. 

And so, while it goes without saying that this risk of far-right disruption and possible violence during our election process deserves a resounding JEERS, we also have to look at the everyday folks who are doing everything they can to help combat the type of rampant misinformation that leads to groups of people thinking it’s OK to kidnap a governor because they think she’s a tyrant for closing their beloved gyms during a deadly pandemic involving an airborne virus. The League of Women Voters goes above and beyond in their work to help bring relevant, unbiased, factual information to the voters during every election season and deserve another CHEERS for switching gears in 2020 to help Clark County voters access remote candidate forums from the comfort and safety of their own homes. 

Our second CHEERS goes out to the local school district leaders who have been working closely with public health officials to ensure that a recent decision to bring the area’s youngest K-12 students back to the classroom for in-person lessons would be safe for students, staff, families and the community. School district superintendents Jeff Snell in Camas and Mary Templeton in Washougal have been walking a tightrope between those who worry reopening schools too soon poses too great a risk to teachers, staff, families and the community and those who worry a 100-percent remote learning environment is bad for children’s social/emotional health and have been pushing the districts to bring students back to the classroom as soon as possible. Both superintendents deserve a CHEERS for dealing with a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation by listening to public health experts and bringing informed, research-based facts to a public that is becoming exhausted by a pandemic that is still gaining speed and still killing thousands of Americans every single day. 

The final October CHEERS belongs then, to the teachers and school district staff members who have been leading small-group, in-person preschool and special education classes for the past few months without any COVID-19 outbreaks in the local school buildings. We hope the same holds true as school districts begin to bring more youngsters — kindergarteners — back to the classroom in early November. 

As we’ve said many times in this editorial space — and as school board members, Camas School District Superintendent Snell, Clark County public health officials and Washington Democratic Governor Jay Inslee have been saying for several months — if we want to return to a sense of greater normalcy during this pandemic, with our children in school and our businesses fully reopened, we need to follow the most current, research-based recommendations for controlling the community spread of COVID-19: That means wearing masks over our noses and mouths outside our own homes, giving plenty of space between us and non-household folks and not flaunting state rules regarding small-group gatherings (in Phase 2 counties like Clark County, the recommendation is to “gather with no more than five people outside your household per week”).

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