Trying to gauge the other side's tactics in this election can be a bit of an intuitive exercise. It's not that what they are communicating is particularly complex or in any way intellectually challenging, because it isn't. Rather the opposite is true. They are putting out about as vacuous and content free a campaign message as I have ever seen in my many years of paying way too much attention to this stuff. Apparently for them electability and political appeal has absolutely nothing to do with government policies or dealing with the harsh realities facing small California cities here at the beginning of the rather edgy 21st century. Rather it is all about, well, being pleasant. Or else.
Sometimes you have to wonder if they think they're talking to children. And that by trivializing the important issues now facing us, or insinuating to the voters that such things are beyond their ability to understand, all they are really doing is fighting for power. In other words, it's just standard slick politics from the usual suspects, wrapped in a thick politically correct nougat.
Now I'm not exactly sure how they can see this as being a winning tactic. From what I've seen most of the people who rouse themselves to vote in our elections have a pretty good understanding of what politics is all about. And, as someone once so wisely pointed out, it ain't exactly beanbag. Rather it is an exchange of differing philosophies and opinions on one of the most important topics we face as a people living in a democratic society, and that is how we govern ourselves. I'm not sure the Shirley Temple thing is really to the point here.
As a matter of fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say that such forced amity during a campaign, or even on our City Council, really isn't the way we should want to go. Because let's face it, if the five people sitting there looked like that happy yellow guy up in the corner all the time, how much of value would really be getting done? The real world just doesn't work like that. People who govern a city should be passionately involved in making things work as well as they possibly can. And if they aren't arguing, or disagreeing, or even occasionally howling at the moon, they just aren't doing the job. Disagreement, no matter how noisy or annoying, is often just the thing to drive a process that creates good solutions.
Of course, from history we can cite governments where everyone was on the same page and always appeared to get along quite nicely. Soviet Russia would be a good example. Mussolini's Italy would be another. And I suspect that in North Korea this kind of unity is still revered. Nobody much argued or got involved in unpleasant discord in those places. Or at least not in public. What went on behind the scenes was a very different story, however. They're still finding the bodies.
Democracies are, of course, quite different. People argue about politics, policies, and agendas around the clock. It is an entire industry in itself. Just tune into any cable news channel or talk radio station and you will hear people going on in loud indignant voices about all kinds of topics. Not to mention what happens in Washington DC or Sacramento most days. It is a messy, distressing, and maddening way of getting business done, but do you know what? It's also the best this old world has to offer these days. And it is through such dispute and conflict that the best solutions are often forged.
But to hear the Three Moscateers talk about it, you would think that people running for office should do nothing more radical than discuss the proper posture for your pinkie finger when holding a wine glass. And that arguing about politics and how we should govern this city, or exactly how we fit into that big bad world out there beyond the Michillinda Curtain, is something akin to the worst kind of behavior imaginable. For them the highest possible ideal that anyone can strive for is to, well, don't worry and be happy. And if you refuse to live up to their behavioral standards of correct political behavior? Well then you are probably an awful person and nobody would ever want to invite you to their house for cucumber sandwiches.
Apparently there are two ways to run a campaign this year. The first is to discuss the issues, talk about city politics, and examine the records of both the incumbents and those running for a City Council gig for the first time. Or more if you're The Eagle.
The other way is to run a soap opera campaign. This tactic, which is used instead of discussing such things as city policies and the records of our candidates, seeks to trivialize everything to a personal level. "So and so was mean to me," being one line being used lately. Or "So and so didn't get to be Mayor, and it was his turn!" is another. And then there's "the Skilled Nursing Facility is ugly, and it's all your fault!" gambit. That this comes off as sounding childish and vacuous is not by mistake. Take the important issues out of politics, and with it the passion and disagreements, and that is pretty much all you'll have left. Meaningless dramas and passive aggressive appeals that have precious little to do with taking care of the real business of Sierra Madre.
Remember, the seven people participating in this election are running for City Council, and not Town Diva. And if the rough and tumble of a political election fight doesn't suit your more refined temperament, perhaps you should find something else to do with your time. Because chances are that sort of thing won't be going away any time soon, no matter what you've heard.
Besides, isn't it true that all being nice ever got us was One Carter, or the endless revolving door debt of our Community Redevelopment Agency?
If you can't cope with the nitty gritty of a campaign, how are you going to handle the City Council job where things can get really tough? Because in the end that will never change. And just because you've appointed yourself a Special Agent in the Decorum Police, are you really doing anything different than those you've criticized? I don't think so. It is as much an aggressive power play as anything else you will see or hear in this election.