• Stephanie Vigil

The First Day of the Rest of my Blog

Here we are in the final month of 2020. This year, I ran for the Colorado General Assembly and lost. I have no regrets. I put humanist and democratic values on the ballot in House District 16, I frightened the county’s Republican establishment, and it’s my proudest loss ever. We have to contest every race, even where it’s hard and victory seems out of reach. We can’t flip districts that we don’t run in. So let’s run for all of them.

I also managed a campaign for El Paso County Commissioner, for my good friend and local labor leader Ken Schauer. We didn’t make it, so our county’s Board of Commissioners continues to be 100% single-party -- 5 out of 5 seats Republican-held for 48 years and counting (they draw their own districts). Stay tuned for more on this. Progressives and other concerned residents have ignored this board at our peril.

You may as well know a couple of things right away, so you can decide whether to keep reading this:

I am a politician. I don’t, and won’t, pretend not to be in order to appeal to the popular notion that politics is inherently corrupt and dirty, that we should want non-politicians to do political work so we won’t feel ourselves polluted when we vote or become civically engaged. “Politics,” writ large, is how we debate among ourselves how best to distribute power, resources, and other goods. It’s how we negotiate what essential terms in political language really mean, and how to apply them in everyday life. It can only be as good, honest, and wholesome as we are. That’s an uncomfortable reality, so many people lean away. I chose to lean in instead, and I encourage everyone to join me.

The fact is, I ran for political office and I will do it again. I’ve managed a couple of campaigns and volunteered extensively on others. I’m a committee member of the Democratic Party at both a county and state level. Listen, I’m as surprised as anyone, and my younger self sure wouldn’t believe it, but there’s no denying that I am indeed a politician. It’s a thing now.

I believe wholeheartedly in democracy -- that is, the concept that governments get their legitimacy from the consent of the governed, with the idea being that government leaders should serve the public interest or risk being replaced by someone who will. This is a hill worth dying on, because nothing good that can be achieved through civic action is possible if our system is so un-democratic that it rewards a radicalized political minority with unearned or outsized power. The resulting apathy among the public is not accidental. Your vote matters, or there wouldn’t be an entire political party trying to keep you from the polls, dilute or de-legitimize your vote, and even attempting to invalidate an entire election where there was “too much” participation and it didn’t work out for them. Vote in every election. Vote like they’re trying to take your government away from you. Because they are.

It was with this in mind that I sent a message to now City Council member Yolanda Avila when I got her flyer on my door in 2017, and said “I’m in, but I’m totally new to this. How do I help you get elected?” It was with this in mind that I got involved in Betty Field’s congressional race later that year, and then ran my caucus and became a precinct organizer, and volunteered to head up our county Democratic Coordinated Campaign in 2018. It was with this in mind that I went to work on Ken Schauer’s race, and then ran for office myself this year.

And it is with all of this in mind that I will continue to build up a coalition in my community, fight for what’s right for human beings, and the ecosystem that sustains us and other living things.

So, welcome! Welcome to my new thing! I hope you’ll stick with me while I figure out exactly what it will be. My main goals are to promote democracy and civic engagement, to further the cause of greater justice and equity in our society, and to share opportunities to make an impact right here in the Pikes Peak Region.

If you’re not local but this content speaks to you, I hope it inspires you to get involved in your own community. And send me your stories! I’m of the mindset that the best progress we can make starts with whatever is within reach. If you hope to change the whole country, you can certainly organize your precinct. Or influence your city council member. Or shift the direction of your community wherever public comment is being taken.

We all have to start somewhere. We were always “all in this together,” and we still are.

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