On “cliques” and politics

With one week to go until the election, I’ve talked to a lot of neighbors about a lot of things. And it’s been so lovely! What an excellent community of kind, smart, engaged residents we have here in Ward 3.

A word that’s come up recently, and that we heard during the Women’s Club forums earlier this month, is the idea of there being political “cliques” in town. I wanted to address and explore that idea, from my own point of view, speaking for no one but myself.

I was kind of a nerd in middle and high school; no one could ever accuse me of being one of the popular kids. In fact, my first experience with campaigning was in 7th grade when I ran for student council; I hand-drew signs with a medieval-style town crier whose speech bubble said “Hear ye, hear ye, Vote for Nicole!” and I gave speeches about field trips to museums and having more hands-on science labs.

I lost in a landslide.

Which is all to say that I am not one to align myself with the politically expedient ideas just to win or to be popular. I am never going to be anyone but wholly, honestly, 100% myself. Which is not as easy as it sounds!

I was never as cool as these two, that’s for sure.

I was never as cool as these two, that’s for sure.

In fact, this whole campaigning business has NOT been easy. If you’re tired of doorknocks and postcards and emails (and I’m sure you are!), just try being in the middle of it, with criticism and false rumors and unfounded accusations to boot. Who wouldn’t seek out like-minded women, in a similar situation, for camaraderie and support?

It’s true: there are other candidates in town I support and admire*. They are strong, fierce, passionate women who are dedicated to service and community. We may not always agree—in fact, I imagine there are topics on which we are directly opposed. We don’t spend a lot of time discussing policy or strategy. We talk about our experiences, and provide encouragement, and maybe share tips on the cheapest place to order lawn signs. We try to lift each other up. It’s what neighbors do. And no matter who ends up in those seven seats next week, it’s what I hope we all will do for each other, and for the town.

I could link to any number of articles here that explore the way that, in the past few years, women candidates have tended to look to each other for support and encouragement, from the local to national level. There’s a lot of dismay around the way national politics is being reflected in our local election, but there’s one area where (I hope) we can all agree it’s a boon—the number of women, and particularly women of color, running for office. It’s an honor to be able to campaign alongside these women, and to support and be supported by them.

The biggest irony in being criticized for being in a “political clique,” my own school unpopularity aside, is that I am running for council because it seems to always be the same folks in positions of power in Cheverly. My number one goal is to welcome a diversity of perspectives and ideas on council, not to focus or restrict in any way.

I’ve always thought of cliques as being pretty exclusive and elite, whereas my political dream is the equivalent of throwing a giant party where everyone is invited, no one feels unwelcome or bored, and every song is the one that sends everyone to the dancefloor with their hands in the air. Can we throw that metaphorical party in Cheverly? I think we can. And if that means that this nerdy girl is somehow in a clique, then sign me up.

*To be clear: I respect everyone. I know that there seems to be a “two sides” situation in the town, which is probably natural when most seats have two candidates, and when there are so many new faces. I imagine elections are much less tense when most seats are unopposed and there isn’t a giant elephant in the room like the current scandals playing out. I hope I’ve shown that I have the temperament to work with everyone, despite my sometimes-blunt nature.

Nicole BrynerComment