Tip O’Neil once said that all politics is local. He had a point. Local politics dimly makes sense while the National election has become so profoundly radioactive that Newt Gingrich is considered a reasonable man. Thus I’ve refrained from commenting on Federal races. On the other hand, I find myself fascinated by a local race for State Representative in my utterly unimportant district of a forgettable state. This is partly because the low population density where I live means I statistically matter locally even through most Federal politicians would rather dine with Satan than listen to my opinions.
As I’ve written before, a very nice person came to my little farm to personally request my vote. Rather than associate her campaign with me (which few candidates would want!) I called her “Candidate X”. I gave her a good-natured lecture about reducing government size and then sent her and her Prius on their way. Good for her for trying to win an election by honest door to door campaigning but I wasn’t her target audience and she didn’t close the deal.
Then the Republicans started doing everything they could to get Candidate X (Democrat naturally) elected. I got two successive Republican sponsored mass mailings that claimed that Candidate X was more or less the antichrist. No mention of their guy. This prompted me to opine that Republicans were really good at snatching defeat from the hands of victory and didn’t seem to be qualified to be Wal-Mart greeters, much less political party operatives.
Then I got two more mailings. Both identical. Both mailed and recieved on the same day. This time from a no-party group that existed only to sink Candidate X. Both mailings claimed Candidate X was going to cause the planet’s orbit to decay until we spiral into the sun in a fiery Armageddon. My only reaction was disgust that they were dumb enough to send the same leaflet twice to the same mailbox. Searching for duplicates in their mailing list is too advanced? As a Curmudgeon I’m revolted by waste. The party of “small government” can’t even be frugal with THEIR OWN money? Forget difficult policy choices, they can’t even be efficient with attack ads. How do these people get dressed in the morning without hurting themselves?
At this point I wouldn’t vote for their guy if he personally came over to my house and cooked dinner. (Well maybe if it was bacon. I really like bacon.)
A few days later I got a nice little leaflet from Candidate X. It was sweet and utterly positive. Good! It also mentioned all the shiny toys she was going to give me. All the great “services” I was going to get for free using the magic tax dollars that apparently materialize from the sky just like rainbows. It was positive stuff but I don’t want any part of it. If I want stuff I’ll earn money and buy it. If I can’t afford it I can’t have it. Free shit from the government is brutally expensive and I refuse to play that game. If I’d gotten a pamphlet that said “I’ll plow the roads minimally and do just enough to keep basic civilization on the rails and then shut the hell up”…I’d be her full time volunteer campaigner.
So now I veered back toward the Republican. Perhaps the guy behind the bile spewing party that represents him is ok? A little reading on the Internet and I’m unimpressed. He looks like a clueless placeholder propped up by a party that wants to disembowel Candidate X. He doesn’t have much to say and unless I’m misreading things he gets as much credit for his campaign as my hammer does for the last structure I built. He’s there but he doesn’t look like he’s really doing much. Is Karl Rove lurking in the bushes somewhere?
What do I do? Vote for a genuine human being who wants the opposite of me? Or vote for a clueless placeholder shoved in my face by a vile, negative, content free, disgusting, wasteful, dare I say it…evil…campaign? Local politics are a shadow of national politics and this isn’t looking like leadership on either side.
Luckily for my mental attitude there is a sunny side. Yesterday I stopped in the small coffee shop in my town (population about 150). When I walked in the door all five customers looked up, recognized a stranger (I don’t hang out in my own town much…I don’t actually live in the village proper and I’m anti-social), and stopped talking. One had a cowboy hat the size of Texas and was a bit younger than the rest. (Though they were all old enough to remember one channel black and white TV. Actually I’m old enough to remember that and they’d beat me in years. I suppose our society of underfed vegan youth roaming city malls with iPods has taught us to expect younger groups.) I smiled to put them at ease and got to work on a monster breakfast. They soon went back to bitching about the weather and hunting regulations. (Around here hunting regulations are a good reason to loathe far off bureaucrats. The pause was because folks here are reticent to show any opinion about anything amid outsiders. It’s a different world from cities where people will scream their opinion at you with a megaphone.)
Eventually someone mentioned he had to get back home and fix his busted truck and the gabfest broke up. As they all stood up and shuffled to the door, the fellow with the monster cowboy hat handed me a business card and shyly asked that I write him in for some small County level position I would hardly recognize. Big smile, friendly attitude, and he apologized for imposing on me in case I wasn’t a voter in the county. (I’m new to this area. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a fellow with a good memory to recognize many of the residents and a sizeable portion of the voters.) I assured him that I was a voter and thanked him for his card. He strode out and was gone.
After breakfast (which was excellent!) I saw most of the guys (including the guy with the hat) peering under the hood of a trashed old Ford Ranger and discussing which parts store was the nearest. Indeed a government of our peers is within our reach. I didn’t see Karl Rove anywhere in sight. The guy with the big hat was the closest thing to “government of our peers…of the people” I’ve seen in a long time. There’s hope if you go far enough down the food chain.