We've all heard 'All politics are local politics' or some variation. It's an old political saw that recently came home to Lu and I.
The next election includes our local City Council. I know our current councilman. We served together briefly when I was a member of the Sheriff's Office. We're casual friends, having known each other for the better part of 25 years. He's close to my best friend. He's also the incumbent.
A brief aside here. Salinas, California had 29 murders in 2009. That's 21.7 per 100,000 population. We're mentioned in the same breath as Oakland and Detroit. Housing values have plummeted. Our tax base has decreased by millions (12 at the last estimate I saw) and shows no sign of improvement. There's a turf war ongoing between the northern and southern branches of the primary latino gang structures. Joblessness is rising faster than the national average. Businesses have folded or fled and the council argues about whether or not to allow WalMart to open a brand new super store. That's dirty tax money apparently.
The incumbent asked for our support, bolstered by the recommendation of my best friend. Lu and I agreed and put up a campaign sign on the lawn of our corner, and high traffic area, home.
A couple of days ago the challenger knocked and asked for a chance to make her pitch. We invited her in and had a nice discussion of issues. We were impressed. She understands the problems we face and has some good answers. She's very pro-business and clearly understands the idea of prioritization and attracting a broader tax base. She has a criminal justice degree and can converse intelligently about crime and criminality. We liked her and agreed to do our homework and re-consider our support of the incumbent. She left us a lawn sign.
Lu and I talked, compared, contrasted and came to the decision that we were going to go with the challenger. Lawn signs were changed and we considered the matter closed.
A day later my friend called to warn that the incumbent was en route to ask about our switch. He knocked a short time later and wanted to talk about it. I informed him that we had made our choice and wasn't particularly interested in a debate. He refused to leave the matter alone and rode over my objections. Wanting to just get it over with I pointed out the issues and that the majority of the problems had occurred on his watch. I told him it was time for new answers from people who hadn't contributed materially to our downfall. His response?
It was at least partially Sacramento's fault. The clear implication was it was beyond his ability to effect and that he shouldn't be held responsible. The 'It's not my fault' defense.
I closed our little chat immediately and handed him his campaign sign. Undoubtedly a friendship gone with the political winds and I'm Ok with that.
I found this entire affair representative of what's wrong this country on a state and national scale. Politicians who's only qualification is experience in the job and a sense of entitlement where their office is concerned. Frankly, experience like that we can do with out.
I am tired of no answers, wrong answers and stupid answers. I am looking at all incumbents with a very dim eye. If you've got a good one then by all means give them your support. If you've got an incumbent like mine then it's up to them to prove that they deserve to be retained. Something my councilman singularly failed to do. Not just by his words and attitude but by his actions over the years. Fail is fail no matter how many rainbows you plaster it with.
Voting the party line is giving your vote to a group who will then package it with others and sell them to the highest bidder. Kinda like the mortgage derivatives that crashed the housing market but with even more dire consequences. Look no further than the RINOs currently in public office for proof. The only reason they got elected in the first place is because the national committee supported them and told us we had to hold our noses and vote for them or risk a D in that spot. We bought it for a long time but no more. It's ultimately a destructive strategy and leads to a political overlord class.
I'm not necessarily done with the republican party (though they're trying very hard to drive me away and succeeding admirably) but I am done with politics as usual. No matter your affiliation, if you're an office seeker you had best be prepared to face an electorate that is better informed and paying more attention than ever before. At least in my lifetime. It's a brand new ball game and whoever misses that is doomed to runner up status.
Lu and I have made our choices and are prepared to live with the consequences. I suggest that my city councilman and every other politician, whether in office or seeking one, do the same. We're not angry but we are very, very determined and we won't stand for the same old tired rhetoric for an answer ever again. Friend or not. Do the Will of The People, do your damn job, or be consigned to the ash heap of history and good riddance to you.
It's a new America and those who underestimate or dismiss us do so at their peril. I can't say it any plainer. I'm done.