Breaking with longstanding tradition, the Mountain Lakes Republican candidates for Borough Council recently declined an invitation to participate in a League of Women Voters of Mountain Lakes (LWVML) candidate forum. As a former mayor, past League President for 4 years, and 25+-year member of LWVML I can say confidently – they have made the right call and we should all applaud their decision.
The League of Women Voters of Mountain Lakes has sadly lost their way, and is no longer a non-partisan group promoting engagement in government.
The local chapter I recall cherished political diversity and participation from across the political spectrum. We jealously guarded our responsibility to promote civics-awareness in a non-partisan manner, and were rewarded with an active membership and robust growth.
The LWVML was known for producing fair and balanced candidate forums. I moderated dozens of forums for nearly twenty years. We were trained to read the following statement before every forum: “The LWV is a nonpartisan organization that does not support or oppose any political party or candidate. The League’s purpose is to promote political responsibility through informed participation of citizens in government.”
We were a respected and valued group within our community. The LWVML has lost this important focus and is now a remnant of the efforts of many dedicated Lakers over many years. Predictably, as the League focus shifted away from voter service toward activism the participation and influence has dwindled.
Last year, Laker Republican Club (LRC) sent an email to members of the Mountain Lakes community announcing their formation - a nonprofit political group focused on transparent and accountable local government, fiscal responsibility, and environmental stewardship. A response was received from a LWVML Executive Board Member that accused Republicans of being racist, misogynist, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigration, anti-environment, morally corrupt, and unethical.
Several of the leaders of Laker Republican Club, including me, contacted LWVML hoping the matter could be addressed. We asked the League leadership to confirm their non-partisan mission and stand against intolerance toward differing political viewpoints. The LWVML made the decision not to do so.
I am disheartened LWVML leaders would not stand against this intolerance. I understand the political acrimony consuming our nation at the moment, but did not expect the tone, anger, and bias toward Republican neighbors from an Executive Board Member of LWVML.
The Republican candidates for Borough Council have wisely decided to stay away from the entire mess.
When civility breaks down and the leadership of a group like LWVML is reduced to bigoted and hateful comments toward members of their community, we must stand together and unite in favor of diversity and inclusion. A worthy example will not come from our national political parties as they currently exist. Rather, progress will emerge from communities working together to solve local issues in a sensible, productive, and civil manner.
Blair Schleicher Wilson
Volunteer, Laker Republican Club
25+ year Member, LWVML
President, LWVML 1990 to 1993
Former Mayor Mountain Lakes