As the dust settles on another presidential election year, I cannot help but offer an observation: We have very few true leaders in government positions — elected or appointed, and this election did little to change that fact.
The election of Barack Obama in 2008 for better or worse ushered in a new era of political degeneration — the dominance of popular culture in election choices, the perpetuation of which was solidified with the success of his re-election campaign last Tuesday.
What crisis will send us to our next intersection of substantive policy and our lowest societal common denominator? Perhaps it will be our own “fiscal cliff.” Maybe it will be an Israeli preemptive strike against Iran. Europe’s demise to almost certain financial collapse is another possibility. Or, perhaps it will be another terrorist attack on one of our embassies, apparently ignored in real time in a depraved calculation of politics versus human life.
The personal denigration of those with whom we disagree, offset by the periodic visit to the fawning doves of shows like “The View” provides the formulaic cultural juxtaposition needed to distract the electorate from such substantive issues and sustain the ever important cultural popularity — our new political gold standard.
This trend has trickled down to our local elections and by my observation knows no partisan bounds. Two examples, from opposite ends of the valley, and opposite ends of the political spectrum, stand out for me.
No. 1: More eggs.
As reported in this newspaper last week, the Pitkin County Republican headquarters was, for a second time, vandalized by egg throwers. This time the culprits struck on Halloween, hitting the front door repeatedly. Prevailing conjecture blames the act on adolescents. Are they solely to blame?
When interviewed about the vandalism, Pitkin County Republican Chair Frieda Wallison mentioned, rightfully, that the issue merits an open community discussion. She suggested an assembly at the high school to address issues of civility in community discourse. When asked by this newspaper to comment on the idea, Aspen School District Superintendent John Maloy’s clipped response was that he had not been approached about the issue and “will not presume his students are guilty without proof.”
Apparently Maloy’s duties now also include legal representation.
The opportunity to use the egg throwing incident as an object lesson in how we treat each other evidently requires an external validation for Aspen’s leading educator to act on it. Unless something changes, Aspen may soon legitimately be considered a place where some parents send their children to do their dirty work. Real community leaders would recognize this budding trend and take proactive steps to address it. At issue is neither innocence nor guilt, but basic civility and tolerance of those with whom we disagree.
“Teach your children well” goes the famous Graham Nash lyric. John Maloy may have missed an opportunity.
No. 2: Anti-Linman flier fail.
A couple weeks ago a paid political flier arrived in my mailbox. The cardstock mailer sought to illustrate Garfield County commissioner candidate Sonja Linman, a Democrat, as a radical crazy, using a grainy black and white photo of Sonja wearing dark sunglasses in a vain attempt to illustrate her as ominous.
The flyer rambled on, without source or specificity, about Sonja’s “dangerous” plans to increase taxes. A second photo of Linman, a dedicated lifelong educator — with the word “FAIL” stamped across her face in red capital letters — was not only offensive but also overtly misogynistic.
The mailer was paid for by the “Northwest Colorado Alliance” a 501(c)(4) organization that according to its website “ ... exists to educate citizens and Colorado public officials on issues of public policy so they can, if they choose, make a difference in their community on issues affecting their city, state, and even their country at large.”
Precisely what “educational” information is contained in a flier that nonspecifically attacks a long-standing community leader and educator, while seeking to visually depict her inaccurately as a strident radical is completely lost to me.
What is not lost to me is that an organization claiming dedication to education would stamp “fail” in capital letters across the face of a real educator.
Upon winning re-election for a fifth term as commissioner, Sonja’s opponent, incumbent John Martin, was quoted in the Post Independent that his campaign was about “honesty.” Mr. Martin’s responsibility for the honesty of his campaign ends where his proxies’ work begins.
Martin is not alone. Such attacks emanated from both sides of the aisle in local and state elections. I saw no such hit pieces originating from those supporting Linman, however, who garnered almost 49 percent of the vote against Garfield County’s most established and powerful local politician.
I for one hope we have an opportunity to vote for her again.
Eggs and big block letters hurled by proxies to intimidate and mislead us, ignored by the leaders with the power to stop them. Welcome to local politics in the enlightened Roaring Fork Valley.
Email Paul at Pmenter98388@gmail.com .