COMMENTARY: The debates are nearly history. Use them to make history.

by Jun 28, 2019OPINIONS





We will be finishing up the One Feather debate series on Tuesday, July 9 with the Board of Education candidates. All Tribal Council seats, Vice Chief and Chief candidates have been allowed to share their visions with the local community and the internet world for our Tribe.

The debates are significant in the election process. As one candidate pointed out in the discussions, your elected officials are the physical manifestation of the will of the Cherokee people. They will stand before our Tribe, other tribes, the state of North Carolina and other state leadership, federal, and world leaders. When a leader from another municipality or nation looks at and hears the words of our elected officials, they assume that they hear from you. Is that person whose name is on the ballot going to represent you, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, as an intelligent, thoughtful, and positive presence that will be respected? The debates allow you to see the candidates speak to you in a way that they will potentially speak for you.

The format that the One Feather uses is taken from a United States presidential debate script. It is designed to be very controlled and to keep the candidates focused on addressing issues of the Tribe and minimizing personality battles.

Another candidate mentioned that he was glad that we provided this opportunity because, in a broad constituency, it might not be possible to meet every voter personally. Even if you knock on every door, you will not always find your constituent home. It is good to have a venue that permits those who don’t get that personal visit to see their prospective representative answering questions from their communities. A candidate cannot assume who will vote and who will not, so as many faces as he can connect with is the best bet for a successful campaign.

Digital media and the users thereof have a mind of their own. Some insist on verifying what they see and read. Imagine that. Others tend to gravitate to the “facts” that back up their perceptions of a candidate. Social media spreads both truth and lie. And, sometimes each is indistinguishable from the other.

Live debate has been used for centuries to provide constituents a window into the candidates for servant leadership. Debate reveals not just what a candidate says, but how they say it, body language and expression as they say it. It allows the voters to get a “gut check” on the persons for whom they are considering casting a vote.

Live, televised debate is something that the One Feather, and in some years, Junaluska Leadership Council, have provided for the past three election cycles. We have done two Principal Chief, two Vice Chief, and 12 Tribal Council debates (no Tribal Council debates were attempted by the One Feather in 2015-JLC did those). A huge debt of thanks goes to the Tribal Communications Department. They just keep getting better at bringing the candidates into your home via cable television and internet streaming. Without them, none of what you have been able to see would have been possible. The Communications Department has provided a valuable service to the election process.

Jae Winchester oversees the Chief Joyce Dugan Cultural and Performing Arts Center. She and her staff have been outstanding to work with over the years and recent months as we prepared for the debates. They have been accommodating and gracious with their services, talents, and venue. The One Feather and the community owes them a debt of thanks.

For the Principal Chief, Vice Chief, and Tribal Council debates nine incumbents, and eleven candidates showed up. Three incumbents and five candidates either could not or chose not to attend. It is up to you to decide what that means regarding your vote. The One Feather would like to thank those who took the time and effort to attend these essential public information sessions.

We, at the One Feather, hope that these debates will provide you with an additional tool to form your opinion and help you to decide before you cast your vote. Tribal history will be made on Sept. 5, and you will make it. It is up to you.