Tis that time of year: the season of politics; petty partisan politics; down and dirty politics; the time for hyperbole and demagoguery; the time for invective and verbal savagery of one’s opponent; an odious exercise that has permeated every level of government — federal, state, county and city.
Why does it have to be thus? Why is it necessary to disparage an opponent? Why can’t an aspirant for office take the high road and stay there? Doesn’t getting down in the gutter stain the one trying to stain the other?
When it comes to politics and politicians, I’m a world-class cynic and have been since I was editor of the former Daily Times-Advocate 50 years ago. I know that I am not alone. Nothing has changed in politics in hundreds of years, and it is not apt to change.
I have a jaundiced view of politics. Let’s consider that word “cynic.” It’s a dictionary definition is: “A person who believes (people) are motivated by selfishness.” That’s my attitude toward politicians.
Now, let’s consider the word “integrity.” It’s dictionary definition is: “steadfast adherence to a strict ethical code.” Let that phrase linger: “steadfast adherence to a strict ethical code.” but, it has been virtually rendered meaningless, having been “stolen” by politicians of all stripes. How many times have you heard or read about politicians using that word in describing themselves?
Is it really necessary for a politician to tell us that he or she is a person of integrity? Isn’t that something we should expect in a politician? If they are, in fact, persons of integrity, that will become obvious in their everyday actions.
It is interesting to note that in a recent interview in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the two challengers in the Third District county supervisor race each used the word “integrity” in describing themselves. And one of them said the incumbent, the one they are trying to unseat, lacked integrity.
Much of a candidate’s campaign comments is punctuated with “I, I, I.” “I have done this.” “I will do this.” “Trust me.” Those promises usually go unfulfilled. Don’t they realize that, if elected, they can do little, if anything, unilaterally? They would needhelp in getting anything accomplished. But, many of us, as constituents, fail to consider this in listening to politicians. Maybe some of us don’t really want to listen.
I’ve always believed that something happens to a person who becomes a politician, when they are elected or appointed to office. They begin to change. Suddenly, they are thrust into a new and different territory: the heady atmosphere of authority, empowerment and prestige. They have tasted the fruits of Olympus and they don’t want to relinquish that right to the feast.
But, thankfully, we have term limits at the state and local levels, allowing a short entrenchment in office. It is unfortunate that we don’t have term limits for members of the US House of Representatives and Senate. That would require a constitutional amendment, which would require three-fourths of the sitting members of Congress to vote affirmatively for such an amendment, just to start the procedure. Does anyone think for one minute that a sitting member of Congress is going to consider limiting the time he or she can hold office?
The ugliness of petty partisan politics has even snaked its poisoned tentacles into local elections. Traditionally, the positions on city councils, school boards and county supervisor boards have been non-partisan. The ballot listing of a candidate’s name does not and cannot designate a partisan political preference. Supposedly, there is no reason for it, as the offices are non-political.
And they should be. To me, there is absolutely no valid reason for a person to be elected to a non-partisan office on the basis of being a Republican or a Democrat. But, today, most candidates and even the mainstream media are guilty of injecting partisan politics into non-partisan races. It is sad when candidates for county supervisor or a candidate for the county board of education must trumpet party political affiliation in a non-partisan race.
My only recourse, as a citizen, is to vote, hope I make an intelligent decision – and that my vote will count.
Ron Kenney was a reporter and editor of the former Daily Times-Advocate from 1952 to 1978, and was a copy editor on the pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.