Aaron Perry: Self-awareness is a political permission slip to “say something”
“Say something, I’m giving up on you.” Those are lyrics performed by the band, Great Big World. In reflection, it’s another example of life imitating art. 2020 is here and our own great big world is asking us to say something. So, before it’s too late, I’m going to.
Self-awareness is one of life’s most beautiful and cruelest attributes. It can be a constant struggle, a seemingly invisible target. One that if you happen to hit it and be able to evaluate yourself objectively, then we often don’t like what we see and have little clue on how to change it. The reason I bring this up is because I may have figured out a few things in that aspect that have given me peace, purpose, and political clarity.
I’m an Alderman in the city of Waukesha and have been since 2013. I’ve been elected 3 times and elected by my peers twice to serve as council President. These roles are non-partisan and remain so. In the past I identified with the Republican party and ran as such in 2014 for state assembly. I was wildly unsuccessful as the GOP now enjoys pointing out. Without writing a history book, my family, dating back to the mid 1900’s in Missouri was 7-0 in elections until that loss. So needless to say, my 92-year-old Grandmother reminds me of this as well. At age 87 she traveled to Wisconsin to knock on doors with me.
In 2016, I wrote in John Kasich for President. In fall of 2018, my tolerance threshold was nearing the top. In 2019, I said enough is enough and I publicly switched parties. I didn’t do it for a headline, but I didn’t do it to sit on the sideline either. But there were a few headlines. Mark Belling enjoyed dragging me through the mud on air for a few segments, letters to editor gave me less than rave reviews, social media showed the keyboard courage of many, and threats to me politically ensued.
Let me make something very clear by sharing that. I am not a victim. I neither need or want sympathy of any kind. I willingly made that bed and I sleep quite well in it because I was blessed to have the self-awareness to admit I was wrong. One of the freest feelings I’ve ever had is being confident in a decision and announcing it in a way there is no turning back from.
I gave myself the permission slip to do what I knew was right. Even if that meant going against the human instinct to dig in on my previous position. We live in a culture, especially politically, that we simply adapt to our surroundings, believe a message that we think supports that, even if facts, reality and morals don’t. Give yourself this test; Is what you truly support, believe and advocate for something you’d be completely open sharing if a national news camera were in front of you? I did. Saying I was wrong in that fashion was a better feeling than the first time I said, “I do”. You can take from that what you want.
I’ve said enough of what might be wrong, which is fair. But as November of 2020 lurks towards us day by day, crisis by crisis and event by event. There IS a lot of positive and there is time to create more. For all the difficulty that can come from a lot of what I’ve described, I’ve found there are tons of people out there that actually think and feel very similar.
I recently had a woman from northern Wisconsin reach out to me. She is passionate, smart and truly cares about her community. She wants to run for non-partisan local office but felt conflicted about getting involved at all because the questions and discourse that comes from being politically middle of road. She reached out to me. There are few feelings better than being able to help someone else make this country a better place for service. There has already been others who want to switch parties and in fact run for office that inquire about my playbook on what to expect and how to handle it.
What I share with them is, embrace the mindless storm of the ideologically “elite.” Because that, in and of itself, is an example of the low hanging fuel that will maintain your finger on their strategic pulse. With that, you’ll not just know what is coming next, you’ll be there before them. In my personal experience, the meaningful outreach and relationships those in the Democratic party have embraced me with are showing true colors. “Wide tent party,” “Inclusive,” “Equality.” These terms are often called buzz words or talking points, and they can be. At times the Republicans love to throw them in to their platform as well.
Admittedly I have a love affair with words, but I’d rather be judged by my feet. What I do, not what I say. So for the Democrats I’ll say this. In politics, the most valuable level of currency you can have is loyalty. I do believe that. With that said, I walked into a party where the very easiest thing to do was to ignore me, not give me a platform, not employ me and make me get in line and use time to earn it. I walked in to speak to a group of 80 Democrats in Waukesha, WI on June 20th, 2019 running on credit, politically broke.
They invested in me. So, I’m going to give them a return on that investment. I’m going to use my appreciation, passion, and self-awareness to say something. What I’m saying is we need to speak up before it’s too late. Stop making noise and actually say something before this great big world gives up on us.