A Rat in August; A look at political insincerity

How overrated are civil politics?  Judging by the behavior of many people this election cycle, they seem to be very overrated.  While there is no doubt that “dirty” politics are far too pervasive in electioneering, this is nothing new in our system.  Dirty politics are as American as… (I know you’re expecting “mom, apple pie, and Chevrolet” or some other warn out cliché, but I just can’t do it)…voter suppression itself.  Even before there were real political parties, attacks on the character of a political opponent and attempts to make sure people who are not likely to vote for you are induced to stay home, were (and remain) American institutions.  With high speed personalized printing, social media, and sophisticated database technologies, we’re just better at it than our forefathers.

So I’m not going to waste much column space decrying dirty tricks and blatant attempts to keep voters from the polls.  Instead, I’d like to waste column space on the silliness of playing nice.  When bitter political rivals, who spent months trashing each other in primary battles, embrace on election night or shortly thereafter and then spend the next several months raising money for the primary winner and patting each other on the back, you are seeing accomplished liars perform right before your eyes.  Now I suppose some of you see this as all part of the game.  And perhaps you are correct.  But it’s the worst part of the game that you are celebrating.

I can recall voting for George HW Bush in the 1980 Michigan primary in his battle against Ronald Reagan.  As I recall Bush actually beat Reagan here, but shortly thereafter pulled out from the race, embraced the master of voodoo economics, and then ended up on the same ticket in the general election.  The only question I was left with back then was “Is Bush lying now or was he lying during the primary season?”  Either way, it left a bitter taste in my mouth.  I have felt similar disgust for Mo Udall, Jim Blanchard, and all the other candidates in whom I believed enough in to cast my vote, only to see them simply declare “bygones” and move on.

In more recent elections, we get the same image of insincerity from candidates.  In the 107th, Lee Chatfield took on Frank Foster in the GOP primary.  Chatfield claims that he only ran a positive campaign and even his wife piled on to that lie in a letter I received on Saturday.  Is Chatfield that naïve or is he that unaware of the campaign run on his behalf against Foster?  Either way, we’re dangerously close to sending a really naïve or ignorant (or both) candidate to Lansing.

But I digress.

Soon after the primary election, during which Frank Foster pulled out all the stops once he figured out that people of the 107th were on to his ineptitude as a legislator, there was the Golden Boy embracing Lee Chatfield and helping him raise money.  Even local Foster sycophant, Mike Sullivan, who claims Foster is the greatest legislator Michigan has ever seen, now claims Chatfield is even better!  Besides being laughably false, the odds of the two greatest legislators in the history of Michigan both coming from the same town in the same year are pretty staggering.  I guess we really are great up here.

For the first time in memory, one candidate decided not to play the insincerity game after beating a primary opponent.  Justin Amash, a US Representative from Grand Rapids, refused to accept congratulations from his primary opponent after a particularly dirty race. He said  “Brian Ellis, you owe my family and this community an apology. You had the audacity to try to call me today after running a campaign that was called ‘the nastiest in the country,’” Amash continued. “I ran for office to stop people like you.”

Now Amash just might be nuts on the issues, but this time he did the right thing.  Voters were left with no doubt that the guy they supported was being genuine.

I would much rather see Lee Chatfield say “Foster is the same slug he was when I decided to run against him, so I’m not going to take his help now.”  And I would much rather see Foster say “Chatfield is still the dangerous radical who wants to limit your first amendment rights that he was when he challenged me, so while I can’t support Jim Page, I’m sitting this one out.”

That’s the kind of honesty that would make the election process so much more sincere.  Instead, mortal enemies are now best buddies, and if their little plan to fake their genuine affection for each other works, (hmmmm…hard to believe Chatfield’s followers approve of two men embracing), we’re doomed to two more years of inadequate representation.

I am not calling for more ridiculous dirty ads.  I’m not calling for lies designed to mislead us.  I’m simply calling for sincerity.  And if a guy was a rat in August, he’s still a rat in November.  It would actually be refreshing to see such honesty.

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One Comment on “A Rat in August; A look at political insincerity”

  1. cindyricksgers November 3, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

    I had the same experience with H.W. Bush, and was left with the same bitter feelings. I never forgave him for selling out his “principles” for a spot on the ticket, and felt he was dishonest and could not be trusted from that point on.

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