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After last year’s contentious midterm elections and with the presidential race for 2008 really beginning to ramp up, it seems as if the political atmosphere of this country has grown increasingly partisan. The nature of American politics has become so polarized that we often do not vote for candidates anymore, we vote for party. In fact, I am reminded of something my Catholic high school history teacher told our class one day when speaking about his role as a Republican: “If the presidential election came down to Jesus Christ, Democrat, against Genghis Kahn, Republican, I would contemplate for a moment, and then vote foe Genghis Khan. Though clearly hyperbolic, as I know the man to be religious, this statement reveals something about our country that I will not categorize as necessarily good or bad, but is an undeniable reality. Therefore, as Democrats, we have been trained to despise Republicans as the enemy, to characterize them as evil, and work as hard as we can to keep them from attaining positions of power. However, if we can place down our blinders for a moment, there are instances, though few and often far between, where we can see that Republicans, as well as Democrats, labor for the cause of progressivism in their own right.

In early 2005, my parents, and many members of my small community in Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania, organized an effort, known as The Shawnee Preservation Society, to slow the reckless and environmentally unfriendly over-development of our area and try to create pressure for local politicians to abide by the laws that were created to ensure responsible development. Very quickly, my father, Vincent Della Fera and another Smithfield resident, Brian Barrett ran for the two supervisor positions open in Smithfield. (Within Pennsylvania townships, there are three supervisors who assume both executive and legislative responsibilities within the local government. During this particular year, due to one seat being up for election at its scheduled time and another being put up for special election due the resignation of the previous supervisor, two of the three seats were up for election.)

Mr. Barrett and my father, both Republicans, went on to run on a campaign that emphasized responsible development and environmental conservation. They hoped to remove from power the corrupt businessmen who were not only cutting corners on development laws and building oftentimes sub-standard housing, but also themselves in the elected positions to decide whether or not their own developments were lawful. After a difficult campaign, which included the local Republican leadership rescinding my father’s position as candidate and nominating a pro-development candidate of their own, Mr. Barrett and my father, now as a third party candidate and registered independent, both won their elections and took their places on the Smithfield Board of Supervisors. And, during their time as supervisors, they have enacted laws which protects local wetlands and waterways, strictly enforced already-standing laws regarding property development, strove to enact new laws which will create even more responsible development in the future.

Now, almost exactly two years later, the third seat on the board is up for re-election and the local conservationists and progressives are supporting a Democratic candidate, Christine Griffin, for the third seat. And, although winning the seat may prove more difficult for her than Mr. Barrett and my father, if elected the Smithfield board of supervisors will consist of three first-term supervisors, one Republican, one Democrat, and one Independent, all working towards goals which progressives can value. Smithfield Township, I hope, can then serve as an example that Republicans, Democrats, and others can work together on some if not many issues, in the goal of allowing government and politics to be a place where people can get past their differences and strive to make a notable difference in our society.