Who are we?
It’s a valid question given most of us seem to be approaching Election Day not with hope and enthusiasm but with fear and frustration.
Perhaps it is worse this year due to noise being made in the 10th Congressional race as each side works feverishly to cast opposing candidates as the morale equivalent of out-of-touch vile.
The $20 million plus poured into the campaign has produced a cesspool of commercials, petty personal attacks on employment and family roots, and below-the-belt retorts in everything from letters to the editor to social media postings directed at those who dare support the opposition.
Democracy is supposed to be messy. However, it doesn’t have to be vulgar.
Sticking people with barbs, insinuations, and accusations as if they were your political voodoo dolls is about inflicting damage and not about persuading them to perhaps support the candidate that you do. We are enraged by those who verbally abuse children, spouses, or employees yet we don’t hesitate to demean and vilify those who dare to not agree with us.
Both sides seem to forget that an election is about electing someone to govern yet they attack those that oppose them during a campaign as if they were rabid dogs and then they wonder why Congress can’t seem to govern or why those who were in the minority simply don’t let bygones be bygones instead of sharpening their claws for the next election cycle.
So who are we?
Supposedly we take pride in being a nation of 325 million individuals who bring various cultures, skills, faith, views, and dreams to the table. Yet our politics scream that either you’re like us and with us or you’re against us.
The 10th District race is troubling because both sides by their rhetoric — subtle and not so subtle — imply that if you’re not with Josh Harder or if you’re not with Jeff Denham you’re not from “the valley.” If you don’t embrace a specific healthcare insurance philosophy you don’t care about “the valley” or if you haven’t faithfully voted in every election since 1851 when California became a state you don’t care about “the valley.”
Let’s be clear on one point. It doesn’t matter whether you were born in Turlock moved away and moved back or were born in Hawthorne and moved here, if you are here you are “of the valley.” The depth of your family lineage means nothing. It’s your commitment to the valley that does.
And exactly what are “valley values”? They’re arguably much more diverse than in San Francisco mainly because the economic conditions in The City have squeezed out much of the working class, most of the poor, and is jeopardizing the middle class. Politically, San Francisco is for all practical purposes a one party town. The Northern San Joaquin Valley is as close to a 50-50 mix that you’re going to find. That’s why it is curious that anyone would torch the other 50 percent of being the equivalent of — I hate the word — deplorables by painting someone they’ve elected to Congress four times as some prehistoric political creature.
At the same time using San Francisco as a punching bag when it is still the flagship city of the Bay Area even though San Jose has surpassed it in population is insane given the growing influx of former Bay Area residents into the valley.
A lot of the pot stirring is being done by hired political hacks not for the benefit of “the valley” per se but whether the Democrats or Republicans will control the national agenda. But there is also plenty being stirred locally as well.
Neither Harder nor Denham are evil reincarnated but you couldn’t tell otherwise if you were basing your assessment on 15 minutes of watching TV.
Burning candidates at the proverbial stake with inflammatory rhetoric, half-truths, twisted interpretations of votes or remarks, or just plain vicious characterization is something you’d expect in Salem of 1683 and not supposedly the enlightened year of 2018.
When this election cycle ends, we all need to take a collective breath regardless of whom we support or who wins.
Do we really want to keep vilifying neighbors or complete strangers because they don’t think or vote like you? How is such treatment any different than vilifying others for being of a different ethnicity, gender, faith, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, or however else you slice up humanity?
There was a time when it was the norm for those of different views to have heated and spirited debates, vote, and then move on while continuing to be friends outside of the political arena. Most of our leaders conducted themselves in that manner as did much of the country.
We need to stop the nasty habit of pigeon holing people based on a political view, policy position or even by what they do for a living, who they worship or if they don’t, or by where they live.
At the same time we can’t keep expecting everyone to walk lockstep with all of our views in order to be civil to them.
That great experiment called America isn’t about balkanization. The idea was to create a nourishing stew where our strengthens and difference – much like carrots, beef, peas, potatoes, and such — combine while still being different. It wasn’t for the melting pot to produce one homogenous paste with no taste or flavor.