… and the High Road is Where?

Bob’s former Home Page Essay; Oct. 28-Nov. 5th, 2019

“When someone is cruel or acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level.

“No, our motto is: ‘When they go low; we go high….’”

First Lady Michelle Obama; Democratic National Convention; July 25, 2016

October 28, 2019

Junk mail tends to tumble from a postal box this time of year.  It’s the Silly Season, Election Time.

I prefer house-to-house visits.  So sorry (maybe gladly), I’m not mailing you anything.  But the Other Team is; Enfield’s joined-at-the-hip political threesome that includes our Town Supervisor and two other Councilperson candidates.  In recent days, they’ve dispatched envelopes to virtually every Enfield household (except mine).  Predictably, the team urges you to vote for them, not me.

Fair game.  I welcome a challenge.  Political competition emboldens our democracy.  Each of my fellow candidates deserves the right—indeed, holds the obligation—to outline his or her qualifications for office and to articulate a governing philosophy.  So do I.  And I have.  I wish I could have done more.  I wish someone had scheduled an autumn debate.

If their resumes and platform were all this mailing contained, I wouldn’t care.  For you, perhaps just another two-pointer into the recycling bin.  But, no.  From their return address, I conclude it’s rained enough this fall on Tucker Road for someone to find surplus mud to sling.

In meeting you—some 600 of you—door-to-door, I’ve defined myself as an Independent Democrat.  Those words hold meaning.  Though a member of the Democratic Committee, I refuse to identify myself with any political faction, ideology, or activist group.  Others may do so.  I do not.  I’m my own man.  I’ve lived in Enfield for 50 years, yet never before sought political office.  When it comes to Enfield politics, my hands are clean.

Independence to me means calling the shots as I see them.  I’ve attended virtually every Enfield Town Board meeting since February.  I’ve spoken at several; reported on many; and been publicly denounced by the Supervisor at least once. 

On August 14th, from her seat of authority, the Supervisor accused me of misrepresentations and incivility so as to, she said, “further divide and mislead residents of our town.” The Supervisor has disparaged me on Facebook.  On that memorable August night, relying only on hearsay, she actually alleged that I’d misrepresented myself to a town resident as someone holding her own office.  Really?  Would I have been that naive or stupid?

Something’s wrong here.  And I’ve sensed many of you feel it as well.

Let me redefine for politics author David Garland’s criminal justice phrase:  the Culture of Control.  Redefined here, it arises when those in authority become so self-centered, so thin-skinned, that they equate disagreement with disloyalty.  They view challenging a lawmaker’s opinion as nothing short of a “personal attack.”

Where our Town Board meets

If you believe that honest disagreement and respectful dissent hold no place in Enfield politics—that they constitute political incorrectness of some new, different sort—then, please vote for somebody else. You are choosing the momentary bliss of Kumbaya consensus over the rough-and-tumble independence of American Democracy.  You are asking to construct a political Town of Enfield that no longer reflects the principles and liberties of our historic past, but rather resembles the lock-stepped compelled allegiance of North Korea.

Back to that letter, but just briefly. Only under the Culture of Control is a citizen—namely me—seen as “shouting down board members,” when that citizen merely rises to exercise a meticulously-timed, three-minute Privilege-of-the-Floor; and  then delivers a pointed, tempered, yet carefully-crafted critique with the vocal command of an experienced broadcaster.  Only under the Culture of Control is that resident (and candidate) faulted for allegedly “speaking against resident appeals for action on issues relating to safety, pollution and quality of life,” when that citizen has done nothing worse than disagree with the Board’s prevailing opinion on matters of wind power, solar farms, budgeting, or the management of town cemeteries.

And only under the Culture of Control does the Supervisor’s ally hold a citizen out of line when that citizen boldly challenges the Supervisor’s attempt to exploit State law and double her own term of office in the next election.  After I spoke out—and took the arrows for having done so—the Supervisor quietly retreated.  I’m glad I raised my hand.

In an Enfield Democrats’ Google Groups posting September 23rd, the Supervisor articulated how she believes the Town Board has—and should—resolve disagreements:

“Those disagreements are thoughtfully discussed, opinions and ideas are shared that help us move to terms that are more palatable to all of those who have a vote at the table, and when we agree finally, we present to the Public for Hearing when necessary, or Privilege in each meeting, and discuss further concerns and solutions…. If we can’t come to agreement, the person who moved the issue will pull it and it’s put to rest” [Emphasis added].

With all due respect, the Supervisor’s governing philosophy may explain why so many political cans get kicked down Enfield Main Road.  Sometimes, talk must yield to action.  Cast Kumbaya aside.  Vote!  Three-to-Two; or Four-to-One.  Motion passed.  Next item.

Afterwards, we should look forward, not back.  With no hard feelings, we acknowledge victory or defeat.  We shake hands.  We then go home as One Enfield; as colleagues, maybe friends.

The Supervisor and I hold different governing philosophies, to be sure.  That’s fine.  I can accommodate difference.  When unanimity proves impossible, compromise is the next best choice.  When compromise, too, proves elusive, decisions must still be made.  That’s American Democracy.  I’m willing to reach across the Town Board’s table to resolve our differing opinions.  Can others say the same?

But when you read that mailbox letter, don’t be too critical of my fellow Councilperson candidates.  They, too, rely largely upon hearsay.  Neither has attended enough meetings this year to witness my cited interactions with the Board first-hand.  These candidates believe only what others tell them.  They may assume fiction to be fact.

Our Election Day Polling Place

Upon first hearing of my detractors’ appraisal Friday, the 25th, I could have gotten mad.  I could have gotten even.  No, instead, I got to work.  I headed out in my pickup and drove the roads of Enfield.  I shook more hands; planted more signs; made more friends.  It was arguably the best afternoon of my campaign.  These are my people.  These are Enfield’s grassroots.  And to them, mud doesn’t stick.

To the Other Team’s criticisms of me, I will not respond in kind, but rather with words of civility and reason.  I must.  Because you, my supporters, my people, matter too much for me to drive any route other than the High RoadThat road leads to the Living Water Church, our polling place, on Election Day, Tuesday November 5th.  Join me for the journey… to there, and beyond.

Peace; Victory.