thoughts about local political talk

Rowan_County_nc_sealHere are some thoughts I thought about the Rowan County, North Carolina, campaign for County Commission — a very interesting and frustrating topic.

This blog is great. It describes what happened: “What is the Fish House?”

These Facebook pages are also great: Fire Jim Sides and Craig Pierce and La Resistance.

I may be wrong (and I hope I am), but as a strategy for electing a more progressive, responsive commission, I’m not so sure.

It’s a Fish House, Mall Tax, These-Guys-Aren’t-Good-Policy-Makers strategy.

Fire Jim Sides and La Resistance are awesome for generating interest and energy.

But a campaign requirers more than talk about the past. It requires a vision and promised actions for the future. Winning an election requires actual votes for one candidate over another — and I actually think focusing on the mall and the fish house and “wrongness” of people may help Jim Sides. It would not surprise me at all to see the opposition vote split 10 ways and see Mr. Sides increase his vote count in the next election.

La Resistance ad in the Salisbury Post. 4/6/14

He’s refusing to talk to the press and still getting all the attention. And he’s getting it for things that don’t matter that much.

There are good arguments against the county buying the mall, but there are also some valid arguments for buying it. Either way, it’s a done deal. Over. In the past.

If commissioners intend to damage the downtown and the city of Salisbury, that may be completely valid. There is evidence for that being the case. However, it’s hard to prove, much less run against, an intention or a motive. I’m not sure it can win a county-wide election.

The noise is good because it raises awareness and will likely increase voter turn-out.

But the noise needs to be channelled into a coherent strategy, and I’m not seeing that. It may actually be too late for that, since it’s too late for candidates to file.

I’ve heard the argument about switching party registration, as a strategy.

Okay, then what?

Which candidates on the Republican side support the schools? That’s what I want to hear. And I think that is what voters want to hear.

The schools are the backbone of any community. The economy, crime levels, jobs, quality of jobs, poverty, income levels — everything hinges on the quality of the school system. Every public problem the community faces could be dramatically transformed over time via the consistent presence of a high quality school system.

It’s a simple equation. Quality of Schools Now = Quality of Life in the Future. Period.

What about a candidate who champions the schools?

If there is one, who would that be?

For many years, Jim Sides has not worked WITH the school board. He’s worked against it. This way of governing has had an impact, and we’re seeing that all over. Rowan County has been behind for a good while and it’s going to take new leadership over time to catch up.

Politically, buying the mall was dumb. It’s easy to make jokes about it. But the county is growing and the government will need more office space. It’s a lot easier to justify buying the mall than it is to justify trashing the school system.

It’s almost like wasting valuable time talking about prayer at meetings. Fire Jim Sides and La Resistance are doing something similar to that. Being passionate about something that doesn’t matter that much.

Malls and fish houses are easier to talk about than facing the brutal facts about our school system and how much time and money it’s going to take to recover.

That’s the kind of noise and campaigning what I want to hear.

Cut spending? Gimme a break.

Candidates spent $4 billion on the mid-term elections.

What was the battle cry that won the day?  “Stop spending!”

Those who said it loudest spent the most.

That is, the tea party folks talk the most about frugality, but they’re the least frugal when it comes to spending money.

Rand Paul, the champion of cutting spending, spent over $10 million on the general election — in Kentucky!

He bought so much advertising that some of the local television stations ran out of time “inventory.”

We like to spend money on eBay so much that Meg Whitman can afford to drop $160 million on her own campaign (a new record).

She’s worth $1.3 billion.

Russ Feingold, a class act liberal and bipartisan senator for 17 years, lost to Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.

Johnson, a tea party guy who, according to himself, wants to ‘stop all the spending,’ spent over $8 million — four times the amount Feingold spent.

But alas, this will continue.  Our Supreme Court has decided that corporate money equals free speech.  It’s doubtful those who won — the ones who benefited most from this money — will pass legislation that stops the flow to their own campaigns.

The problem with government spending is not government spending.  It’s a big country and a big government.  The problem is that our understanding is minimal and our priorities are distorted.

And there are groups that are willing to spend a lot of money to make sure it stays distorted.

If they would start with cutting campaign spending by creating a system with public funding of elections, it would save a lot of money, be more informative, be more positive — and make for a healthier mood in the country and a better democracy.

But that would require a cut in spending.

The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends

I have a tendency to get worked up at election time.

This year, I did a pretty good job of staying cool, calm, and collected.

The best way to do this is by not watching TV — which I did not do for several weeks.

Then, about a week ago, I posted this little video on my Facebook.

I thought it was funny, but it garnered some harsh, emotional opposition.

Thus began the phase of me getting “worked up.”

I wrote a blog, and the response to that got a little personal.

What’s going on!

I know.  I know.  Don’t talk about politics or religion.

But news, weather, and sports should be okay.  These days, politics is news and news is politics — at the expense of real, consequential news.

But these tea party folks aren’t looking for a discussion.  They’re looking for a fight.  Many of them, it seems, just discovered the U.S. Constitution.

It makes me nostalgic for the day, prior to the Bush-Gore election, when the world wide web was much younger, when I tried to teach a 5th grade class a lesson on the electoral college.

I had the computer hooked up to a big TV, so you could see the red and blue states and click on Florida once for blue, and again for red.

This was fancy technology at the time — which was the point of the lesson.  I was demonstrating for teachers how the internet could be used, along with a TV, in the classroom.

As I began explaining that Presidents were elected by an electoral college, state by state, the classroom teachers eyes glazed over.  After a short time, they interrupted me to say that this material wasn’t important and that the children weren’t interested.

They were right.  Nobody was interested.  Until a few weeks later when we all got a huge civics lesson.

Now, it seems, it’s gotten crazy.  We’re all too interested.  And some of the novice politicos don’t have the best manners.

I remember handing out pamphlets for McGovern, and then going to Nixon’s inauguration.

Win or lose, it was all quite interesting — but it was more respectful.

On my blog, I wasn’t sure whether or not to approve the comments or delete them.  I approved and argued that people can respectfully disagree without getting…well…nasty.

Then, in order to feel a little better, I moseyed down to the Democratic headquarters and made a few GOTV phone calls.

And watched a bit more TV.

And blogged again…

And watched more TV.


But, in order to get myself back on track, I took a long walk today with my dog — out in nature.  It was quite beautiful out there, with only the sounds of leaves and breeze and geese.  I noticed that geese love to talk to me, but when I answer, it seems to throw them off.  They get quiet.

And I started humming one of my favorite songs:  “The Farmer and the Cowman Should be Friends.”

This made me feel great — but a little old.