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The Dartmouth
May 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Facebook Democracy

I come not to praise Vanessa Sievers, but to bury her. Sievers, now a national flash in the pan, democratically won the local election for county treasurer. This is immediately inspiring; young people in America are finally becoming considered mature enough to run for office and better their communities. One of us can now stand up and say, "I'm a real treasurer!" But then we find out Geppetto (Bill Sharp, Grafton County's register of deeds) had a grudge, and everyone involved has been turned into an ass.

"But Zach," you might say, "Sievers even has a restricted Facebook profile, just like a real county treasurer would [one that I will continue not to be able to view after this article]. And you can barely see that her widely used photo with eponymous election poster was taken in a frat basement. And while Democratic pong tournaments fall outside of the realm of small-town finance, they will make county board meetings a hell of a lot more interesting: 'I sink, you drink and delegate $300,000 for local road maintenance.'" I wonder how good Ms. Sievers is at saving. And the corny joke"loving crowd goes wild.

As others have introduced and I will second, the objection is not that Ms. Sievers is too young. This is where incumbent Elliott went for an irrelevant low blow. I applaud Sievers' efforts in inspiring others our age to go into politics. In fact, if she comes into a basement, I will congratulate her (with a touch of the Old Testament awe-of-Yahweh trepidation) because I don't hate the player -- I hate the game.

Why? Because we don't really live here. Sure, we could be considered denizens of Hanover. Or, more appropriately, we could be called visitors who flock to Grafton County for two-month intervals over four finite years.

If it was truly my "brainwashed" peers that elected Ms. Sievers -- and not the growing demographic of blue collar workers with Facebook profiles ("new media" lovers, through and through) -- then we have made a selfish choice. Our taxes don't go to public schools, our money doesn't pay for the roads here; we do not truly consider ourselves Grafton County-ites. When people ask where you go to school, you say Dartmouth. You never say you're from Hanover, but some far-off place you call "home." And by voting for one of our carpet-bagging compatriots, we've done Grafton a great disservice.

Ultimately, Sievers will most likely survive (and perhaps, succeed) as treasurer. Let's not hold her lack of experience against her, although we should. It's not even her untested ability but her burden of responsibility that worries me most. A public servant is held liable by her own community, her own constituents -- those whom she represents. And if this is truly a republic, then our elected officials should represent the electorate and its interests. Dartmouth students do not fall within this category.

Of course, someone will write a reactionary column saying that students are deeply involved in the Upper Valley. But they should stop being so self-applauding; Dartmouth students don't give a damn about Joe Grafton's taxes.

If, Yahweh forbid, a county check were lost, it's not our money, our local schools or our public goods lost. It's Grafton's. It's the money of those people to whom we refer when we mention things like "poverty in the Upper Valley." Grafton is not us. We are not Grafton. Why are we allowed to elect its leaders?

Treasurer is an administrative job, not a partisan one. Sievers did not run to build a better community or affect local policy, which would be a nobler pursuit. Treasurers have no expectations beyond competence; so why was the local, experienced incumbent unseated?

Perhaps it was this wave of Democratic enthusiasm that helped Sievers, whose name happily fell underneath Obama's. We shouldn't question her as a "teenybopper" but as a public official in a place where she's not a true, committed resident.

Millions of dollars and no experience seem to be a poor match. But there's Facebook democracy for you. "Vanessa, Grafton has sent you a new gift: County Treasurer." Vanessa, I hope you accept my friend request.