“I don’t care what you do, I wouldn’t want to be like you.”
— Alan Parsons Project
In an example of Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down theory — only one that works — the blood sport that politics has become on the national level has slowly oozed its way into local politics.
Maybe I’m getting soft — not that I was ever hard — or maybe I’ve just lived through enough, but I’ve grown ever more disgusted by the lengths politicians will go to win a campaign. Now I understand that politics on the national level are bloodthirsty affairs because of all that lobbyist money that’s there for the bribing, and I am also well aware that our current president is the king of sleaze when it comes to politics. No one — soldiers who died in combat, respected senators who were war heroes, the handicapped ... let’s just say anyone who doesn’t kiss his ... ummm, ring — is fair game for the occupant of the White House.
The fact that President Trump has the vocal and never-wavering support of a goodly percentage of the population and, hey, the guy did get elected president, has opened the door to win-at-all-cost politics on every level.
We had our own examples of the unseemly during the recently completed municipal elections that saw three new faces chosen to serve on the seven-member Albany City Commission, including a new mayor. (Leaving incumbent Ward I City Commissioner Jon Howard, perhaps the most unchallengeable politician in Albany, to muse, “I’m glad nobody decided to run against me.”) It didn’t reach Trumpian levels, but, hey, give our folks an A for effort. They’re new at this kind of thing.
The most publicized — and still pending a legal outcome — action from the recent campaign wars was incumbent Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta’s filching of a couple of campaign signs of opponent Chad Warbington. Unfortunately for Marietta, his actions were caught on a homeowner’s security cameras (sending sales of that particular system up locally). Marietta sheepishly admitted he took a sign, then amended his confession to two signs after the video circulated widely on social media clearly showed his actions.
Warbington equated the incumbent commissioner’s action to something along the lines of the theft of the crown jewels and insisted Marietta should be booted from office and hung on the rack in the public square for a few days to straighten him out.
In the end, Warbington won the election by a handful of votes, and while both candidates downplayed the significance of what came to be known locally as Sign-gate, there is little doubt that the chicanery cost Marietta this election and most likely his hopes of running for the mayor’s office four years down the road.
In this year’s mayor’s race, attorney Bo Dorough put together his thoughts on how to “fix” a series of issues that plague the city — health care, utilities, crime, the like — put them up on his impressive website and talked with all who would listen about the changes he would push as mayor. Henry Mathis, who had also served time on the City Commission — and in a federal prison — pushed Dorough for the No. 2 spot and a subsequent runoff among the seven mayoral candidates through most of general election night, but in the end it was incumbent Mayor Dorothy Hubbard finishing first and Dorough second.
Most political insiders — who look primarily at things like demographics ... which is code for race — said there’s no way Dorough would defeat Hubbard in this 70% African-American community (Dorough is white, Hubbard, the city’s first female mayor, black). They also noted that Hubbard is quite popular throughout the community and is one of the most active top city executives in modern history.
But Dorough got some help from social media trolls — advocating for all change, all the time — who mixed rumor and misinformation in with actual fact and turned it into an underground groundswell of support for the challenger and contempt for the incumbent. (One disgruntled Hubbard supporter said after election results were released: “I don’t know how I feel about having a mayor endorsed by Will Geer,” a person who oversees several anti-city Facebook sites. Point.)
In the end, the 2019 municipal election went down as one with enough sleaze to at least get politicians up the food chains in Atlanta and Washington’s attention. With a presidential election involving Trump coming up next year, expect that factor to increase exponentially.