By that, Ezra Klein was referring to the dysfunction in government in Washington, with one side insisting that all would be well if the President would just lead and the other side insisting all would be well if Republicans in Congress would just compromise. Klein says the polarized state of politics in Washington is not difficult to understand; it's just difficult to fix. That may not please those who demand simple, immediate solutions, but then, politics is not here to please you.Politics is not here to please you.
Source: Ezra Klein.
After the jump, applying that lesson to Richardson politics.
The current mayoral election campaign started with two candidates that I was equally satisfied with. The campaign ended with two candidates that I thought had more or less disgraced themselves. Am I being too critical? Was there really a different way this could have played out?
If I could have scripted the campaign, both candidates would have run positive campaigns, hardly mentioning each other. They each would have demonstrated that they are knowledgeable, experienced and passionate about serving Richardson. They would have emphasized their own résumés, their service to Richardson residents, and their policy proposals for the future.
That wasn't gonna happen. No way. No how. It is an election after all, between two candidates, not just a referendum on one. Both candidates have a self interest in improving their own chances. Elections being a zero-sum game, that comes at the expense of the other. So, it was likely that the candidates would begin to draw distinctions with their opponents, as sharply as they can. That means going negative. As the war escalates, you go from an election campaign with both candidates saying how much they respect each other to one in which the mud flies.
So, Amir Omar accused Laura Maczka of "leading the charge" against direct election of the mayor. He equated her to the Richardson Coalition PAC. He took his fight with Charles Eisemann public by telling the audience that he was warned privately by an unnamed prominent community leader that he would have a hard time winning re-election if he supported direct election of the mayor. Call it a pre-emptive strike, as everyone knew that Eisemann's Richardson Coalition PAC was planning to fire its own shot.
Laura Maczka started off appearing to want to run a frontrunner's campaign, staying above the fray. Her supporters were willing to draw the negative distinctions for her. The audience in the first forum asked the candidates whether they had ever declared bankruptcy or had any gaps in their employment records. Later, Maczka's biggest supporter, the Richardson Coalition PAC, dropped the biggest bombshell of the campaign. Its voters guide referenced court documents allegedly containing embarrassing details about Omar's bankruptcy and divorce. Maczka got her own hands dirty by sending an email to her followers endorsing the Richardson Coalition PAC's insinuations.
If Omar was concerned in that first forum that he was an underdog, he now must have realized that the election was lost unless he could drag Maczka herself through the mud with him. So, he spent thousands of dollars mailing fliers alleging that Maczka wants to pack Richardson with cheap apartments and pack Richardson schools with economically disadvantaged families.
That's where we stand today, two days before the election. Should we be surprised? I guess not. Candidates shouldn't run if they don't mean to win. That means putting 100% into it. Like it or not, that usually means going negative. That means going all the way up to, but not crossing over, the line where truthfulness tips over into falsehood. Election campaigns, by their very nature, guarantee that candidates maneuver so close to that line that hard feelings are inevitable. There's no agreement where the line is, or who has crossed it. No one ever thinks he has crossed it himself. No one ever says, "I'm an asshole sometimes, I can admit it. But it's usually only when I'm trying to make a point. Sorry if I went too far." (Actually, one partisan in the online discussions did say just that. My hat is off to her.) So the mud flies while everyone is oblivious to the fact that maybe their own hands are full of mud.
As dissatisfying as it is for me to accept, the polarized state of politics in Richardson is not difficult to understand; it's just difficult to fix because polarization is a natural byproduct of politics. Am I pleased with that? No. But, then, politics is not here to please me.
Election day is Saturday, May 11. Regardless of how this election has affected you, vote.