Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dirty Deeds

Mayor Royce Pollard revitalized downtown Vancouver.
Formerly a hangout for transients and dangerous activity,
Esther Short Park is now a wonderful place for families. Photo by Jes.

I'm saddened today by the results of my city's mayoral race. You can read about it here.

For a thorough recounting of the lies and dirty campaign tactics that have unfolded in my community, you can search the name "Leavitt" at Politics is a Blood Sport. It's a complicated, tangled mess, and I haven't the heart to explain it all.

It's disheartening to see great public servants defeated by those who fling mud and misrepresent their opponents. When Professor X and I moved to the Pacific Northwest 13 years ago, we were impressed with the leadership of our new city's mayor, Royce Pollard. His efforts transformed Vancouver, Washington. He's made a big difference and deserved another term.

One thing that haunts me is that I believe so much of the outcome of elections is decided on looks. I wish I could do a study of voters to see how many of them actually heard the two candidates speak. The men appeared at numerous debates and forums and were on local cable TV. They were quoted extensively in the newspaper. But we all know that attendance at such functions is a tiny fraction of the actual voting population. And many folks no longer even subscribe to the newspaper, let alone read it. Even those who do often don't read local political articles. There are many mailings that hit voters' recycling boxes without more than a cursory glance at the photograph of the candidate. We do not have an informed electorate.

Royce Pollard, Mayor of America's Vancouver, is a smart man. A good man. And, surprisingly, given his age (70), a more lively and engaged man than his opponent (38). Think I'm prejudiced because I am an old person? First of all, I'm much nearer 38 than 70, so up yours. Second, it isn't just me who thinks so. When the candidates debated at the local college, Professor X and I overheard a number of them expressing preference for Pollard because he was so energetic. He's worked really hard to make our community a vibrant, healthy place to live and work. And I don't believe his opponent will contribute a fraction of the value we received from Mayor Pollard.

Unfortunately, many voters' exposure was probably limited to simply looking at the candidates' photographs. I believe that ageism reared its ugly head. For so many voters, which box they tick often boils down to a beauty contest. Few people take the time to research what's on the ballot. They go with an impression based on appearance. It's why I remain afraid of Sarah Palin. A good leader? Nope. Smart? Oh, please! Good looking? Reluctantly, I must confess she has a certain appeal. And if she were running against Hillary Clinton, I would be extremely concerned. Winston Churchill once noted

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

I don't think his opinion would change if he saw voters today.

The thing that makes me angry about this election is that the challenger accused the Pollard camp of running a dirty campaign. Maybe he caught a glimpse of himself and his supporters in the mirror and sought to point the finger elsewhere. Nothing like accusing your opposition of that of which you are guilty. I'm reminded of a quote from a much earlier campaign:
I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. ~Adlai Stevenson, campaign speech, 1952
The truth about this race is that a good man was defeated. I only hope that the newcomer will not undo his legacy.

Thank you, Mayor Royce Pollard.


Anonymous said...

"First of all, I'm much nearer 38 than 70, so up yours." Laughing.

I wish I had your guts! Seems as if every time I open my mouth, because of my opinions, I upset someone and then I feel bad! And then I feel bad...and then I feel bad!!! lol

Simple Mama said...

agree. with everything you said.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

We are sad to see him go as well.

lisleman said...

Of course I don't have a clue about Vancouver WA (I visited the BC one once) but since I've been following your blog, I'll trust you're judgement. That (trusting another judgement) has a big influence on voters I believe. People do listen to endorsements from others and their organizations.
Great quotes.
From my limited history lessons and watching various documentaries I think the uninformed voter has been around since the first ballot.
The worst trend of late is the mistrust in government. Dirty campaigns only add to that problem.

Becky said...

It is too bad. And about the ageism: I remember some social psychology experiment where people had to choose team members to eliminate (in a Weakest Link-style game), but they knew that their choices were being scrutinized for bias. So there was no measurable race or gender bias, but everyone still discriminated against older people. It still seemed acceptable.

Barry said...

Negative political advertising is now making its inroads into Canada as well and I fear for our democracy. Combine an uninformed electorate with political spin doctoring and the willingness to tell outright lies about opponents, and government itself is brought into disrepute.

Changes in the way political campaigning is conducted has to change. And soon.

kyooty said...

I've been to Both Vancouvers, that park of yours is beautiful. We don't get the news paper here either, it's just something that gets thrown to the recycling before it's read, not neough hours in the day.

Brian K. Wingate said...

You know that though I'm far away Vancouver is and always will be my home - I didn't get much of the dirty deeds campaigning through reading the Columbian online. However, I agree with your point; that with Pollard gone Vancouver is loosing an asset which has revalued the city in many ways.

I suppose you cannot negate the role looks plays in politics. However, one other contributing factor is a wearing out of ones welcome in office through no fault of the elected official - the Vancouver electorate can be very 'onry' as my grandmother is apt to say.

However, with what you recount of the opposition to the Mayor it may be that dirty pool was enough to overcome incumbent inertia.

Oh, how we pine for those days of yore in Chicagoland 21 years of uninterrupted service!

mommapolitico said...

Love the "nearer 38" line - may have to adapt a version for regular use, my Dear! Great post, and I agree wholeheartedly; American democracy relies on the education of the electorate. People must educate themselves on the candidates and issues, and when we don't, the results are often disastrous.
Sorry to hear about the mayoral race - I hope the new mayor has the sense not to fix what ain't broken, so to speak. Great post, Girl.

Kathy Amen said...

As more boomers turn 60 and 70, I wonder if ageism will get more or less prevalent.... We just had arguably our best mayor in 30 years leave office thru insane term limits law, and he was over 70. Fortunately, he was replaced by a youngster who seems competent. But you have all my sympathy for your situation.

Shana said...

I'm going to let my ignorance shine thru for a moment here and say: I am not even really sure what all falls under the job description of The Mayor.

Mr. Pollard has been The Mayor the entire time I have lived in Vancouver, and I have NEVER EVER ONCE EVER had a good experience dealing with City Hall or City Licensing or any other local government office. This being said as a small business owner. The City of Vancouver as an entity has been UNBELIEVABLY DIFFICULT to work with for those of us who are small business, self-employed and not part of the "in" crowd -- the "in" crowed consisting of "small" businesses that are actually all owned by the same group of big players.

Again, I don't know how much of this is the responsibility of The Mayor, but as a semi-apolotical constituent, The Mayor, for me, is the *face* if you will of the local government. And I was ready for a change.

That said. I heart you and know that anyone who has your support has earned it. And I respect that. And did I mention heart you? Even though you're closer to 70 than 38. Bwahaha.