Every year, both political parties play this game where they lower expectations for election day. The idea is that if they win, they look like they beat the odds, if they lose . . . well, that’s what they were expecting. Unfortunately, at the same time, they have to keep hope alive for their volunteers who are frantically calling everyone they know to get them to turn in their ballot.
What results is a twisted message along the lines of Claudius’ speech in the beginning of Hamlet,
“Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole.”
I know at this point you are going, “WHAT ABOUT SETH FLEETWOOD!?! You go off the air for two weeks and come back with SHAKESPEARE QUOTES?!” Hang in there, I’m getting there.
Recently, former Republican Chair Luanne Van Werven and current Republican Chair Charlie Crabtree accused me of being a “political operative” for Satpal Sidhu because I had the nerve to point out how extreme Van Werven is, based on her evangelical views on how the world works and her activism over these views. Just to repeat, I am not the voice of Satpal’s campaign, simply a man with a blog and an opinion.
Now Charlie Crabtree frequently gets confused over how things are, after all, two years ago, I had to explain to him how newspapers work. He may have just gotten confused, after all, “Riley Sweeney” is very similar to the name “Satpal Sidhu” and he may have thought that I was on the ballot.
But Luanne Van Werven is a very smart woman. I’ve debated her and seen her work. She knows that I don’t speak for anyone but myself – yet she still pressed this smear into the hands of the Herald and her supporters. NOTE: Ralph Schwartz, of the Herald, rightly clarifies below that the Republicans did not pressure them to cover the story, but rather the email was newsworthy unto itself.
I try to avoid speculating on anyone’s motives, but in this case, I would guess that this is a media-savvy attempt to remind the voters of Whatcom County that she, Van Werven, is a Christian and her opponent is not. Like Claudius, she is attempting to say two things at once – be outraged at someone discriminating against her for being Christian while trying to remind everyone that Sidhu is “other”.
This is the same Van Werven who at a public forum in 2011 accused our County Treasurer of having an affair, and endorsed a gubernatorial candidate that believed that the biggest threat to Washington State is radical Islam.
While Fleetwood and Ericksen are nuking each other in the airwaves and in my mailbox, there are plenty of other dirty tricks making the rounds.
Which comes back to my theme, lowering expectations. This year, we have some top of the shelf candidates running for office on both sides of the aisle – capable politicians and passionate advocates – yet rather than a full discussion of how to best fund education, we got lies about troubles with the IRS. Instead of discussing how to best fight climate change, we got arguments over whether a lifelong resident of the 42nd district actually lives in the 42nd district. Instead of policy proposals, we got Tom Steyer, Coal Money, Lobbyist Lunches and whose God is better.
I am far from blameless. I frequently dig into the partisan minutiae on this blog but this is much larger than just a blog. Even year elections tend to be more partisan and therefore inflammatory in scope – look at the bloody battles going on nation-wide for the control of the Senate but next year, we have an opportunity to make things better on the small scale.
We deserve better, we all deserve a better. Next year, we are electing Mayors, County Officials, County and City Councilmembers, and many more. These are local people, interested in solving problems locally. Perhaps instead of the onslaught of empty character issues and blind accusations, we will have a full and robust discussion over how to best improve Whatcom.
But that would require a shift in how we discuss politics in our town. It would require a concerted effort to disseminate good information and punish at the ballot box those who refuse to discuss real issues. I leave you with this last thought from Hamlet and Polonius.
Lord Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Lord Polonius: What is the matter, my lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Lord Polonius: I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.