Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Five stages of "Good grief!"

Shame on two men today.

(Not those two, not Romney or Obama, though they could take heed.)

Today two men should feel properly hung over, as if awakened from a stupor, having let their baser Mr. Hydes overtake their Dr. Jekylls, with disgusting result.

Two decent men, I'll wager, became less in their attempt to be more.

Two who would not ordinarily act as they did the last two months, and would not have drawn their friends and families and co-workers into shame on their behalf.

Except this, they decided, was an extraordinary time, and shame, they decided, had use.

Tomorrow one of these two men may wonder if he could have managed without acting like such an ass. He will be declared the winner. The other may wonder if he should have — and somehow could have — been more of an ass. He will be the loser.

We lose, either way.

In the spirit of Tip O'Neill's "all politics is local," I confine my rant to the race for my assembly district.

The Republican candidate is Peter Tateishi, as close as I've ever been to knowing a real-life politician. He and his siblings went to the same school my kids did. His mom teaches at the school. His dad is a deacon in the church.

I don't know him personally; I have surmised from the literature that he has sought a political life — maybe even, you might say, a life of public service. He runs on his experience as chief of staff for Rep. Dan Lungren, our congressman, himself having run a shame-for-shame campaign with his opponent Ami Bera.

Peter came to our doorstep one day, canvassing the neighborhood, also a first; I've never seen a candidate show up at our door. Just him, with his satchel of pamphlets, surprised I recognized him.
His red-white-and-blue signs had covered the intersections long before. "Peter Tateishi … To Fix the State Assembly." Quixotic and awkward: Does any voter really expect one representative to clean up an entire legislative house? Tip O'Neill would have told Tateishi the slogan should be, "To Fix our Potholes."

Peter Tateishi's career has included serving as a planning commissioner, a parks and recreation district commissioner, a president of a state group of parks and rec commissioners, and creator and CEO of a foundation to support parks in his community.

In other words, he's doing something, trying to make a difference, to lead the way, not relying on the public weal. An honorable person, I'm willing to guess.

As is his opponent. Ken Cooley is a city council member from Rancho Cordova, has been since the new city was incorporated, was mayor twice. Outsider news media might call Rancho Cordova a hardscrabble city, with an equal share of mini-marts and massive corporate headquarters, never the twain meeting. Crime and blight, outsiders may first think of Rancho Cordova. Ken Cooley lives there and has been walking his talk to make his community better.

Here are two candidates who present a tough choice, two candidates who could have — should have — run on their records and left it at that.  But of course, politics must be usual.

The campaign has run a cycle, a kind of reverse interactive Kübler-Ross five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance).

We started with acceptance, as each candidate presented himself, stated his qualifications and achievements, with solid street cred and just enough bunting on their campaign literature.

Then commenced the anger, with a trickle of accusations that arrived in our mail. They're running for office, after all. Being good, making a difference, is not enough. The other guy must be evil.

The endorsement groups — firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses, the League of Women Voters — began bargaining with us over the candidates. If you're one of us — if you want us patrolling your neighborhood, teaching your kid — vote for our guy.

We became depressed. We accepted the deluge of mail that our postal deliverer actually complained about having to bring us. With a smattering of "I'm the good guy" came mailers mostly with variations on "He's the bad guy!!!" Charges of corruption, of dark connections, of trojan horses disguising wicked agendas; multiple mailers from each candidate, every day but Sunday.

"He's Dan Lungren's chief minion!"

"Oh yeah, well he's the insurance industry's henchman!"

"I balanced 10 straight budgets. He only improved a local skate park."

"He gave away pensions and went on trips at taxpayer expense!"

"He'll raise your taxes!!"



And so forth. My favorite moment so far was last week, listening to a radio commercial featuring Peter Tateishi's wife, who outlined her two tours of duty in Iraq training police —a family embodying public service! — and then deplores Ken Cooley's hurtful lies and accusations against her husband.

Simultaneously came the Tateishi fliers, proffering their own lies and accusations.

(Second favorite: An anti-Cooley flier with a connect-the-dots line-art portrait of Cooley, the dots representing the increments of donations "Big Insurance" has made to Cooley's campaign. Unlike the postcards, this flier is folded an closed with two stickers. That's asking a lot of the people who applied the stickers, and a lot of voters to work so hard to be insulted.)

Neither of these candidates is the scum the other has suggested. Each is doing far more for their communities than I and most others. But they fell into the mucky pit of politics, or someone pulled them in, because that's how it's done.

How I wish these two — or someone! — would start the trend: I'm running on my record and I'm not denigrating my opponent. Vote for me if you think I can do job.

Candidates need to run ads like this, the world I want to live in come every election time.

Instead, candidates show they don't think much of their constituents' intelligence.

Shame on these two. Shame on us.

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