As I was writing this column last Friday, I tried to imagine how I would feel on the day after the election. All I could think of was, “Thank God the campaign is over!”
It’s been a nasty, polarizing, bruising four-year campaign which has really gotten into high gear during the last six months. It all began right after the last presidential election when Mitch McConnell announced that his “legislative” goal was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
So I got to wondering, “What can we learn from the ordeal we’ve just gone through that Forest Parkers can apply to the upcoming campaign and election in two years for mayor and commissioners?” I’ll begin with what turned me off about the campaign that just ended.
In this presidential campaign, one estimate I found online says that over $2 billion will be spent. One pundit said we have a plutocracy, not a democracy.
Locally the last I heard, neither Mayor Calderone nor any of the commissioners were ever the CEO of Bain Capital. None of them lives in a McMansion. None are independently wealthy, and probably none of those who compete against them will be able to buy the election. Not an issue as far as I’m concerned.
Nationally, most polls say that most of us don’t like negative attack ads, but the campaigns keep running them because they say they work. There’s a disconnect here. Do we subconsciously like nastiness in campaigns the way hockey fans get excited when there’s a fight on the ice?
Locally, in the heat of battle, it’s hard not to get personal. It’s hard, but that kind of maturity is what I want in leaders. Please, let’s stick to the issues.
We saw it in the presidential debates. Each candidate was coached to present an “alpha male” persona to the TV audience viewing the debates, which is not the way either Obama or Romney comes off when interviewed in a relaxed situation. Memorized lines. Getting into character. It felt more like theater than an honest presentation of ideas.
Locally, I’m not worried about this one. One of the things I love about this small town is that we have many opportunities to experience our politicians in unguarded moments. Not many of us are comfortable with that level of vulnerability. My admiration goes out to all of them.
All about winning
It seems to me that both candidates compromised their personal values in order to win, using the rationalization that that’s the way the game is played. Nice guys finish last.
Even in my condominium association, a need to win can trump what’s best for the common good. Sorry, Coach Lombardi. Winning isn’t everything. I’ll vote for the person who has a reasonable plan and displays an even-keeled temperament even if it costs him/her votes.
Bashing the wealthy and the federal government
On the national level, one side portrays the wealthy as greedy and the other side demonizes the federal government as incompetent and the source of all evil.
Locally, not many of our village’s streets would be resurfaced without federal matching dollars. Chris Christie, a Republican, is welcoming FEMA dollars to help New Jersey recover from Sandy’s devastation. I personally benefit from curb cuts, accessible entries and handicapped parking, all mandated by national legislation called the Americans with Disabilities Act. There’s a lot that our village government does better in our town than one size fits all federal legislation can do. Let’s just acknowledge that there is a needed partnership here.