It takes a practiced political eye to decode messages political hopefuls offer these days, to separate the meaningful from the meaningless.
My eye, honed by years of scrunched-over editing, can usually – but not always – spot the deft twist of a purposely useless phrase floating in the milk of political mush. A few such passages drifted by in the past three issues of the Enterprise when we published supervisorial candidates’ responses to written questions.
In order, pairs of candidates for supervisor Districts 1, 2 and 4 were queried on major issues facing Calaveras County. Many of their answers were candid and revealing, but now and then you could perceive the fine art of political dodging.
Give yourself an eye exam. Go back to those three past newspapers, examine page A5 of each of them, and judge for yourself.
Because we aren’t stupid, even the fluff answers help to expose candidates for who they really are. Their shallow answers tell us that some candidates think they can smooth-talk us. The election results over the years tell me that maybe some of them are right.
One thing worth noting in this exercise is that civility more or less prevailed this time around. With maybe one or two light exceptions, the candidates appear to have avoided stooping to overt name calling or politically labeling their opponents – and those who did, again, tell us more about themselves than about their opponents. This election so far has been an improvement over some we’ve seen in the past.
Next year will mark my 10th year of editing the Calaveras Enterprise, and every two years at least it’s been my privilege to help reporters look for what lies beneath the politicians’ crocodilian skins. We’ve gotten reasonably good at it – at times exposing outright lies and deceitful character – but that doesn’t always mean we’ve affected the outcome of elections.
In the end we all live with the choices voters make, no matter if they prove distasteful to some of us.
Two reasons for this, I think: One is that a growing number of voters are now kneejerk partisans who don’t pay much attention to a community newspaper, maybe to any newspaper for that matter. The fact you’re reading this column means you’re not likely among that crowd. Two is that the trend for early mail-in voting has a downside. More people now cast their votes early in the process, even before the candidates are fully vetted, not just by news people but in the larger public arena of candidate nights and the like.
That’s not an excuse for the rest of us to shirk our duty to be responsible, informed voters. It’s a bit distressing, but in the long run my experience has been that the voters usually do get it right and even when they manage to get it wrong they usually correct their mistakes down the road.
Thanks to all the voters who make that effort. In fact, what I really want to say is: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.”