Posted by: sweeneyblog | November 3, 2014

Lowering Expectations

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.

Charlie Crabtree and Luanne Van Werven. Photo Credit to Dave Onkles.

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.

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Responses

  1. In your last paragraph, I believe you meant “disseminate” not “decimate.”

    • Yeah, the Fourth Estate is already quite good at decimating good information!

    • Probably. Fixing now.

  2. “If ’twere to be done, should be done quickly”. This includes getting in your ballot.

  3. This blog post recycles the inaccurate assumption that the Republicans “pressed this smear (against Satpal Sidhu’s character) into the hands of the Herald.” I don’t know where this assumption came from. If the Republicans were spoon-feeding me something, I wouldn’t be so doltish as to regurgitate it on the Herald’s Politics Blog. The email was sent to people who made the effort to sign up for the county Republican Party’s email list. My predecessor, Jared Paben, who left the Herald more than two years ago, is still on that mailing list, and all of his emails are still forwarded to me. That’s the only way I saw the message.

    Because the email was intended for Republican eyes only, my editor and I discussed whether to run with the Sidhu “smear” at all. We figured that enough Democrats are signed onto the Republicans’ mailing list, to watch what they are saying, that Van Werven’s attack on Sidhu’s character would have a wide audience. If we didn’t run with it, I figured, we could be construed as passing on this questionable assertion by the Republicans. I felt we had to bring this to light.

    What stood out for my editor and I was that the Republicans would have the temerity to call someone, in essence, a religious bigot who has devoted so much of his efforts to spreading religious tolerance. When I asked the Republicans how they came up with that label for Sidhu, party Chairman Charlie Crabtree pointed to Riley Sweeney’s post describing Van Werven as a religious zealot. The Republicans connected the dots between Sidhu and Sweeney based on the fact that Sweeney is a county Democratic Party officer. I questioned that dot-connecting in a followup blog post.

    I’ve said this elsewhere: I was disappointed that a small but vocal minority of readers read or remembered only the headline of my post and drew the conclusion that I was either deliberately or unwittingly backing Van Werven. To believe that is to not have read much of anything I’ve written on the politics beat over the past two years.

    • I don’t think the Republican’s coerced you into writing about this, Ralph, but I think they send out the story knowing it is inflammatory enough to catch your interest. But I will update to clarify.

    • Hi Ralph, Don’t know why you’re disappointed by finding that headlines, in bold print, stick in the mind more than the words that follow. That’s pretty basic psychology & PR stuff, not to mention the fact that headlines scroll by many eyes very easily, while reading articles takes more effort & fewer people do it. Would love the Herald to figure out how to write eye-catching headlines that don’t ‘send a message’ by themselves. Though as I remember the article, much of it was devoted to the quote, not much to the sort of analysis and backstory here. Consequently, lots of readers were left the feeling that ‘he’s a religious bigot’ was the main point. May not have been the intent, but as the old saying goes, “the way to hell is paved with good intentions.”

  4. “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” If only that could really happen.

    • Gee Gary – I spilled my coffee when I read your post. Fer chrissakes, you stoop so low as to vamp on me with “empty character issues and blind accusations.” As Hercule Poirot would say, “Maybe you should start the ball rolling, n’est pas?”

      • If we kept score on that regard Walter, you would be far ahead. The point is, where do we go from here? This last election set a new standard that opened a lot of eyes. I’m willing to try and change.

  5. Since campaign speech is protected and need not meet any standard for veracity or accuracy or fairness,
    it’s not suitable fodder for any newspaper at any time except as paid advertising.
    The Herald seems to have trouble discerning what is factual and meant for publication,
    and what is rumor, innuendo and unproven allegation which is not.
    It all comes down to selling sensation and page views and that’s not journalism.
    It’s lazy.

    • Ditto that!

    • Astute observation Holmes.

  6. Riley:

    I am so glad that you decided to support me after the evil coal dollars began to flow in for Jeff McClure: While I am sure that he was as surprised as I was by such blatant and unsolicited outside support (since we both filed as under $5,000 candidates), I am also sure that we were both even more surprised that environmental PACs did not realize the significance of this race and support a rabble rouser who backs farmers, the people and the sane use of water. Oh well!

    Bob

    • Did you receive any “evil” green energy dollars?

      • I received money from no person-Corporate or real no pro-coal group advertised for me behind my back as was the case for Jeff., No good or evil greenbacks from Greenies

  7. so you managed to avoid saying anything about Seth, should I take that as a lowering expectations move? Have heard both the Fleetwood and Erickson pitch commercials (where the candidate makes a personal appeal) on local radio so many times, and have to say Fleetwood doesn’t have a theatrical voice. Sounds like he’s trying to sound enthusiastic, never good.

    • Seth is a lawyer.

  8. Hey, this election’s better than last year with hanging beef flyers claiming “Tea Party Republican’s” will flood the county’s farmland with blood, flyers claiming the only female incumbent running supported abuse of women, and…etc., etc., etc…. and not so much angst from your side then…

  9. Would be interesting to hear Riley’s take on this… http://www.savewhatcom.org/2014/11/04/truth-telling-debunking-a-hail-mary-pass/ Save Whatcom is pretty blunt in calling Riley out… seems like an answer would be in order…

    • Riley is in hiding because the posse is after him. He will magically reappear on Groundhog Day.

    • I’ll get to it tonight. Short version – they admit all the important details (the candidates are supported by the coal shippers – although I did flub the number – and that they are spending money on their behalf) – they just denied the charge that these candidates will strip the council of their oversight powers.

      Considering that several of these candidates (Kris Halterman and Dick Donahue for example) have said on KGMI previously, that they support just such a move, this sounds like overblown whining to me.

      • “they admit all the important details (the candidates are supported by the coal shippers – although I did flub the number – and that they are spending money on their behalf)”-that is because they are honest (unlike others for which prevaricating is an art)).

    • Also – SAVEWhatcom got fined last year for screwing up their reported and underreporting their spending, so seeing the amount of money they are sitting on, I’m very skeptical of their claims of only spending $500 per candidate.

      • Where’s the beef?

  10. When you are on the air Riley, you should think before you speak (maybe a prepared text would help).

    • I do try to prepare for all my media appearances but I am merely a talented amatuer.

      • Thanks for admitted that . You are humble.

  11. Do I hear a baby crying?….. Nope, that’s just Riley! Here’s a little advice, if you don’t like the heat – stay outta the fire!

    All this whining about how awful and mean the republicans are, how terrible the Herald blogger is for appearing to be unbiased, how we need to quit ‘smearing’ candidates….. Sheesh! Being the candidate who had the ugliest, most dishonest and negative, despicable, ‘smear’ campaign thrown at me last year, let me tell it to you straight, Riley. Grow a few and put on your big boy pants!

    That sound you hear, yeah, that’s the sound of the other shoe dropping.

    • Sorry to hear that, Kathy. I agree, last year was pretty ugly and this year was even worse. I’m not saying that we should give up – this was aimed as a clarion call for better discourse in our county, something that I think we can all agree on.

      • More Sweeney BS!

    • And this comment from a person, who, when she sat on the council and I asked her in a private meeting how she felt about the current state of our democracy (small d intended), she tells me “we don’t have a democracy, we are a republic. I was dumbfounded and had no response. She was inaccessible and unfriendly. Our county is so much better off today. Who knows, Maybe one day these folks will learn the consequences of their attitudes about civility and what it means to govern, as opposed to working for the corporations and shining on the people as having no consequence. We count, even when we have a message that the religious zealots and all the other zealots out there don’t want to hear or deal with.
      Do we want a government of the people or a government by the corporation? It is our choice but we will have to get a lot smarter and begin to think for ourselves.
      Ronna Loerch

      • She tells me “we don’t have a democracy, we are a republic”. I was dumbfounded and had no response.

        Of course we are a representative republic.

        “The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man”.

        “A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate”.

        http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/AmericanIdeal/aspects/demrep.html

        Sounds like you are anti-minority. 😦

    • Poor losers make even worse winners by the sound of this post,
      and saying we have a Republic but not a Democracy is like claiming to have a Terrier but not a Dog.
      It all boils down to Tea Party rhetoric regurgitated mindlessly by its adherents and apparently striking a chord with the less enlightened voters of our little corner.
      Putting the people back in power that caused all the economic turmoil in the first place is a recipe for more of the corporate fascism we’ve been suffering.
      Too bad for us.

      • “The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man”.

        “A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate”.

        http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/AmericanIdeal/aspects/demrep.html

        Sounds like you are anti-minority. 😦

        Christopher Dodd and Barney Frank are coming back. God help us!

      • Democracy literally – the strength of the people
        and in reality
        each person with one and the same equal power of the vote
        to choose their own leaders and representatives.
        The mechanism behind a republic is democracy..

      • But the “majority” can crush the minority. A democracy is MOB RULE at best.

      • The Pledge of Allegiance in its original form it read:

        “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. At this time it read:

        “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        In 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Bellamy’s daughter objected to this alteration. Today it reads:

        “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

        i see NO mention of democracy” ANYWHERE.

  12. […] we turn our eyes to the local elections. As I mentioned in my recent column, (or as Kathy Kershner referred to it, “whining”), we have a chance to drastically change our […]


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