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Aquila & associates practicing pure grassroots politics

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POSTED September 15, 2010 2:10 a.m.
You can disagree with Frank Aquila’s politics but you can’t dispute one fact – the South San Joaquin County Republicans that he founded is a true grassroots organization.

The 41-year-old Manteca resident and Contra Costa County law enforcement officer started the organization five years ago without the blessing of any official Grand Old Party organization. That doesn’t mean that the views of those participating don’t reflect the party line – they often do.

The goal, though was to encourage people with busy lives like himself – he’s also a father to two boys – to come together to discuss politics without necessarily having to commit to do anything else but talk about the issues.

It is American politics as the Founding Fathers envisioned it – neighbors coming together to discuss issues and support candidates as a form of direct democracy to lay the ground work for the republican-style of government that arose from the American Revolution.

Too often the major parties’ political apparatuses use local groups that they encourage the formation of to simply be worker bees. Under the model that Aquila created, people can step up and volunteer to man the phones and do other mundane but essential election work on behalf of candidates – but that is only an option. The main goal is to create a forum that people can exchange their views as well as listen to candidates.

That is important in a state with 33.8 million people and even a city like Manteca with 69,000 people. Even if you had a New England-style town hall meeting and everyone showed up, it would be utter chaos and would simply underscore the insignificance of the individual instead of emphasizing it.

For the past five years, Aquila has provided the opportunity typically four times a year for people to get away from CNN, talk radio, or wherever they get information that shapes their political views and get together with other citizens who want to take a more active role in their country. In between he relies heavily on e-mail and not your traditional rally-the-troop meetings.

Aquila, of course, has his detractors.

It is all part of the game called politics.

His detractors – who admit to favoring Democrats – will often trash him for implying he oversees an official Republican organization. Technically, you could argue he doesn’t. But then again what is wrong with both parties is that they have too many people in too many key positions who believe everyone that carries the label of their respective political disciplines should be the Stepford voters.

Such an expectation was underscored in an exchange I had with the late Don Stewart - an honorable man by anyone’s definition who happened to be the business manager of the Carpenters Union Local in Manteca as well as a die-hard Democrat.

Don, knowing I was a registered Republican asked me if I voted the straight party ticket.

I replied that I didn’t and instead opted to vote based on the views and qualifications of the person running and not their political affiliation in general elections. I added the fact that sometimes I have been known to vote for more Democrats than Republicans.

That prompted a quick retort from Don, “That’s what’s wrong with you Republicans. You don’t vote party line.”

I shot back with a rhetorical question, “You mean, Don, if Adolf Hitler was a Democrat and Jesus Christ was a Republican that you’d vote for Adolf Hitler?”

“You’re darned right,” came his lightning fast reply.

He was serious in that he’d back a Democrat in a general election come hell or high water.

It is important that we keep in mind during the next 48 days as political rhetoric reaches a crescendo that we are all in this together but we are also all individuals.

We need to agree to disagree without getting into vicious personal attacks.

Elections – even if it is people simply expressing their views while failing to carry through by actually voting – is the purest form of political participation that you can ever ask to see.

A right to disagree with the government and others is a right that many have shed blood to retain for themselves and future generations. We should respect that right by exercising it and being careful not to get too carried away by cheapening that freedom with vicious and personal mudslinging.
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