My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

Category: Politics (page 1 of 34)

Decorum in local politics

As promised, I'm not writing about politics on my FB page.  In fact, I don't have a FB page anymore.  I'm sick of it.  The delay in my posting this will anger some but I'm not going back to arguing with the whole world on Facebook.  This produces a much more considered response I think.

In any event, as politics heat up around election time, there are always hot button issues that pop up.  Crisis and conflict between candidates and parties.  This was the case during the last Council election and my feelings surrounding the infamous "mailer" are well-known.  I quit the party over it.  

This time around, there isn't a mailer (and that must remain the case) but there are individuals making comments on social media that are inflammatory and that I disagree with.  I cannot control what these people say.  I've always thought (take a tour of most of my earlier articles) that local politics should be somewhat more genteel and humane.  I don't know, maybe that particular brand of politics is already in the ash heap and I just don't see it.  I know that as chair of the local GOP that I've received death threats via the mail.  Yes.  Here in Manassas.  Think about that a bit.  People don't want to just call me names, they want me dead….

When I was in office I had dozens of occasions to have pretty pointed discussions with constituents.  Things got heated.  Occasionally overheated but not often what I would call ugly.  Yes, comments on various and sundry blogs were often downright vile but the face to face stuff stayed mostly respectful.  The letters we received from constituents were also generally respectful.  Citizens time was often more…passionate.

I think that the dialog as we run up to the election in November should remain respectful.  Let us disagree and argue over policy and leave the people out.  I know, that isn't the way of current electoral politics but it would be for the best – in all races really but especially for Council and School Board.  These candidates are our neighbors, not some distant Senator that you have .01% chance of ever meeting in your life.  You will probably run into them in the grocery or in Old Town.  Mostly they're just people.  Yes, their politics may be wildly different and/or you may just not like them but they're either in office or running for office and they deserve your respect. 

That goes for both sides. 

In addition, family members should be off limits.  Just as those in elected office serve the citizens, so do their family members.  The family members take the hurt and abuse inflicted upon those in office and feel it tenfold.  Many was the night that I had to restrain Sarah from calling someone to deliver a piece of her mind.  I think that those who attack family members exclude themselves from the policy debate.  It's hurtful and I resent it.  It turns people off and, especially at the local level, it does not help whatever candidate you are trying to support.

So, let us stick to things that are germane: voting records, ideas, policy positions and if things get tough, the person that is running for office – for that person is standing for election.  However it should be respectful because I know that, no matter the outcome, we all have to live here – and with each other the day after the election.

The results are in….

First things first: congratulations to the winners.  To the losers: thank you for being involved, it matters.  To the incumbents (win or lose): thanks for your service.  Our democracy doesn't work if people don't come forward to stand for election and challenge incumbents.  Keeping politicians honest and holding them accountable is crucial.

No doubt you'll hear alot about how Trump is responsible for the Republicans problems and, to a large degree that is true.  If this had happened in Iowa I might simply shrug my shoulders and agree – I don't know a lot about politics in Iowa but I do about Virginia.  This is a devastating turn of events for Republicans in Virginia.  

For the state-wide races, Governor, Lt. Governor and AG, I believe Trump was the determining factor.  Trump drove turnout against Gillespie.  In addition, Gillespie ran on a Trump platform but never really embraced Trump himself.  That half-measure didn't help nail down his base because they didn't believe his new-found Trump-ism……although I expect that if he had done a full-on Trump campaign the results would have been even worse.

But at the local level I think it's a different story.  Trump isn't entirely responsible for the Republicans loss at this level and, indeed, this wipeout was some years in coming.  The first time I ran for office, our area was already trending blue.  I ran as a moderate republican who was mainly interested in taxes, economic growth and immigration (which was a budget and crime issue at the time).  The first time I ran I was the top vote-getter.  The second time I was unopposed.  The further right candidates had trouble, cycle after cycle, getting higher than third place.  The same was becoming true of the House of Delegates and Senate elections.  Despite the gerrymandered nature of their districts, it was getting harder and harder for right-wing Republicans to hold on to power – even when they mounted vicious oppo-driven campaigns.

Why?  Well, I believe that Republicans failed to modulate their policy and messaging to reflect a changing electorate.  Bob Marshall is about as far right as one can get and he was crushed by the first transgender candidate in VA.  Bob, and many other republicans, insisted on calling Danica "it" or "he" and that dog whistle crap didn't work.  Danica stuck mostly to illustrating a lack of results on Mr. Marshall's part and it was the right tactic.  Mr. Lingamfelter, who barely won reelection last time, really didn't try anything different and the result was predictable.  Mr. Miller, well, he got thumped by a guy who I didn't think fits the district but the margin was decisive. 

Now, no doubt some of these marginal candidates who won election will get rolled in the next cycle – that happens with some regularity.  However, I would urge my friends in the Republican party to do some soul-searching and come up with new policy initiatives, messaging and candidates that reflect the reality of the electorate present in their districts.  This electoral result will generate more credible candidates on the democrat side and republicans are going to have to work hard to win.  A new approach to policy would be good – or even having a policy approach that candidates are able to articulate would be a good start……I'm always here to help.

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