My Nana coined the phrase “actions speak louder than words.” Then she’d smack me over the head and chase me around the house with a squirt bottle filled with Tabasco sauce because she knew that reasoning with me verbally didn’t do any good. Talk is cheap. And, as it turns out, so is politics.
In a national election, it kinda makes sense to try to trick voters. Most of us don’t personally know presidential hopefuls, or even congressional one. We vote for the guy or gal who looks most like our grandpa.
But in a county the size of SLO, you run a pretty good chance of bumping into the candidate at the grocery store. And when voters notice Adam Hill isn’t sporting a Republican bumper sticker on his car, they might wonder what the hell’s going on. And no, you probably won’t see Debbie Arnold eating granola while on a nature walk. Meanwhile, polite climate change denier Ed Waage is apparently allowing citizen Kevin Rice to mount a bizarre, alarmist, substance-lite campaign on his behalf. And Jim Patterson is cleaning out your gutters even though you never asked him.
There’s no call for these small-county elections to get nasty, but it happened anyway. I’m not one to call for civility, but when misleading information wafts into peoples’ homes by phone, radio, and Internet, I have to barricade myself in my bathtub with some soothing candles and an Enya CD just to remember that this is, in fact, a pleasant place to live.
Maybe I wouldn’t be so down on all this campaign crap if it didn’t assume us voters are slack-jawed putzes. Welcome to the world of campaign propaganda. It’s a simpler world, full of harsh lights and darks. This is the baggage we Americans, as practitioners of representative democracy, are handed. And it’s threadbare, worn, tired from its long journey. Also, it smells like a bus station urinal.
I will allow that campaigns sometimes careen out of a candidate’s control, and supporters sometimes use their funds to champion their heroes in ways the heroes might not necessarily approve. But sweet voter, considering that, consider the following:
The Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club is actively disassociating itself from Arnold after voters complained they were getting robo-called by her campaign, which was linking itself to the Sierra Club.
“We do not believe Ms. Arnold understands or agrees with the principles of responsible land use planning … her campaign’s attempt to paint Ms. Arnold ‘green’ is akin to a porcupine posing as the Velveteen Rabbit,” the Sierra Club rep said in a press release. Slam! But still, anyone who knows anything about these candidates is aware that Arnold is no tree-hugger, so why pretend to be?
Debbie has also been infesting local airwaves with attacks on Patterson that play somewhat fast and loose with the truth. Sen. Sam Blakeslee’s Doberman, it seems, is off the leash and eager for blood.
“Take Jim’s plastic bag ban. It institutes a six-month jail sentence and a $1,000 per day fine for small businesses that give out plastic bags to customers.” FACT CHECK. I know invoking the monstrous visage of a supervisor swooping down on helpless small businesses and bleeding them dry is probably a godsend to Debbie’s campaign. But it isn’t really all that accurate. In fact, the bag ban only applies to “supermarkets,” “large stores,” “pharmacies,” and “convenience food stores.”
I guess it’s a matter of interpretation. My interpretation happens to be based on the ordinance language, while Debbie’s relies on scare tactics and run-of-the-mill paranoia.
Let’s bounce over to the third district, where Rice is unofficially touting his friend Waage, primarily by demonizing the incumbent. Rice is behind Integrity SLO, where you can find melodramatic ads that say, “This ad not authorized by Ed Waage.” For Waage’s sake, I sure hope not. The 30-second clip is geared toward lowest common denominator types. Ominous bells chime every time the narrator states an allegedly damning fact about Hill.
“In a profanity-filled interview, Adam Hill …” it begins. FACT CHECK. Hill technically used six “profanities” in a New Times article that ran to more than 14,000 words. I don’t even know what percentage six out of 14,000 is—I flunked every course after preschool napping and drawing inside the lines—but trust me, it’s negligible. Hardly worth bringing in the term “laden.”
But wait, the list of Hill’s alleged indiscretions continues. The voice is getting louder, more ominous—I’m typing faster just thinking about the urgency in that voice, HOLY SHIT, THE WORLD IS ENDING AND IT’S GOING TO KEEP ON ENDING UNTIL ADAM HILL IS DEFEATED—before it cuts to Waage and the pace slows. There are words like “honesty,” “integrity,” and “humble” spoken by people who sound like they’re smiling. (I would have gone with “humility,” because I feel that throwing in a third noun for repetition would have sounded a lot nicer than two nouns and an adjective.) I know your intended audience doesn’t care, but it offends me, as it likely does anyone else endowed with brain cells. And don’t get me started on the “prank phone call.” Enough is enough. Talk about an issue for once.
But that brings us to allegations that there’s a phony “Election Day Voting Guide” for Republicans paid for by someone backing Hill’s campaign and, of course, endorsing Hill (side note: Rice is driving criticism on this, too. Gee!). Now, the implication any rational person would draw from this flier is that the Republican Party is endorsing Hill, which would be really weird because Hill’s a registered Democrat. Which leads us to the terribly unfortunate conclusion that someone in Hill’s camp is trying, like everyone else mentioned above, to trick people.
Maybe this pageantry staged in front of American flags and ready-to-be-kissed babies isn’t actually a poor reflection of the candidates. I have a sinking suspicion it’s actually a comment on how our elected officials—or at least their cronies and flunkies—view us: as sheep too witless to distinguish Democrat from Republican, environmentalist from developer-ist, the word “integrity” from a person who actually has it. If that’s the case, let’s give ’em hell. ∆
Shredder’s sharp like a fox. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.