Everybody loses when few go to the polls

He had a lot to say ... He had a lot of nothing to say.

-- Tool

Let's start this with a disclaimer: Any person willing to potentially hang himself out to dry by running for political office deserves a measure of respect from the populace for doing so, no matter how good or bad a candidate that person might actually be. Put your name on a ballot, and

you hang a target on your back.

The media -- or, in today's political climate, unscrupulous party loyalists -- will stoop so low as to dig through your garbage in search of any tiny bit of information they can use against you. And if they find none, there's always the option of making stuff up.

Every time I hear people talk about dirty politics, I remember an audience member yelling "Paul Simon for president" during that great performer's 1988 "Graceland" tour (at the Omni in Atlanta) and his caustic reply: "I couldn't stand up to the scrutiny."

Plus, politicians get bonus gratitude points because there aren't very many activities in which a person who entices millions of people to entrust him or her with the actual running of a country -- or, on a lesser level, a state, county or city -- is considered a loser if his opponent convinces one more person that he or she is better qualified.

Bringing this all back to the here and now, upon hearing of the election Tuesday night of a certain member of a certain political board, one would-be clever wag noted derisively, "Well, now they have dumb and dumber to look forward to." (OK, that not-so-clever comment was made by me ... I just won't say which board. I think as the newcomer's tenure plays out, the D&D reference will become obvious.)

On another topic, I think a lot of people, like me, are intrigued by voter reaction to a newcomer, full of enthusiasm and fresh ideas that address old woes, in a race against an entrenched incumbent. There were a couple of those in Lee County.

Jeff Sexton campaigned vigorously in an attempt to oust veteran Richard Bush from the Leesburg City Council, but got the support of only 20 registered voters for his efforts. Bush won going away, 70-20, in a race that enticed an amazingly paltry 6 percent of voters to the polls. Meanwhile, in Smithville, first-timer Dedra Blackshear got 27 votes, but that total was only three less than 14-year veteran Vincent Cutts.

I walked away from the Lee government center after getting the results from Elections Supervisor Veronica Johnson wondering if all that stew of political activism that was bubbling over in the county only a few weeks back was nothing more than people blindly following the dictates of whatever talking head convinced them to become "active" in the first place.

Certainly there are more registered members of political activist groups in Leesburg than there were people who actually voted Tuesday. Note to such groups: Made-for-media "political activism" rings extremely hollow when you don't follow up your protest gatherings with your presence at the polls. Might want to keep that in mind when the next live just in time for the 6 o'clock TV news is orchestrated.

In the Lee County races, both losing candidates lamented the fact that so few people came to the polls. Sexton forlornly recalled all the broken promises of people who guaranateed their support, while Blackshear simply said, "I'm disappointed in the people of this community because they had a chance to help bring about needed change."

As a wise man once said: "That's politics."

(A closing note to the sharp-eyed Chris Williams: As you pointed out in your online response to the song snippets column that ran Wednesday, the Chili Peppers song is called "Otherside." Shows what happens when you write in a hurry and don't properly fact check. Thanks for straightening me out.)

E-mail Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com