To the Editor:
Jim Davis, who beat Sen. John Snow in the election, ran one of the filthiest campaigns I’ve ever witnessed in my 40 years of voting. He, or people and organizations working on his behalf, sent several deceptive and downright inflammatory mailers during the course of the campaign. The last one that went out, a takeoff on the infamous Willie Horton ads of the 1980s, was one of the most repulsive pieces of campaign literature I’ve ever seen.
I don’t own a television but I’m told that his TV ads were ubiquitous and annoying. I do have a home phone, so I was subjected to one of the sleaziest political tactics around — the push poll.
In push polling the caller indicates that they are doing a poll for informational purposes. The questions begin innocuously enough, asking which candidate you might favor in a particular race and perhaps what some of your general values might be. Once, however, you are tagged with support of the candidate opposing the one the poll is being conducted for, the questions begin to get a lot uglier. “Would you be more or less inclined to support John Snow if you knew he supported child molesters?” or “Would you be more or less likely to support John Snow if you knew he used state money to buy drugs?”
Notice, the questions don’t actually accuse the candidate of anything evil. What they do is insidiously implant impressions and suggestions.
These polls are hideous for several reasons. First, they obviously use what anyone should concede are questionable tactics and language to advance a candidate, or perhaps more appropriately, destroy an opposing candidate. Second, and perhaps more destructive, is that by masquerading as information gathering and innocuous they undermine honest attempts to survey people and also give some folks the sense that the information presented in the questions is neutral and honest.
They are a noxious tactic and any honest candidate should actively disavow them and anyone who conducts them on his behalf.
Regardless of the tactics that got him there, it appears that Jim Davis is going to Raleigh. As a Republican and someone who embraced Tea Party rhetoric, one would expect that Mr. Davis will seek to shrink government and taxes. Most of the Tea Party rhetoric I’ve heard seems to suffer from an over-abundance of anger and a distinct lack of concrete suggestion. Smaller government, if it’s effective, may be a good thing, but most of what I’ve heard seems to paint government in general as evil. Libertarianism, like most of the other “isms,” relies on a utopian view of society that lacks practicality and the pragmatic recognition that people and markets don’t always behave in predictable ways. Hopefully those taking their places in Raleigh will come to the realization sooner rather than later that government is necessary and that governing is significantly more complicated than a “Don’t Tread on Me” sign would lead us to believe.
Since Mr. Davis is a former county commissioner I hope he’ll remember that indiscriminate cuts at the state level often find their way to the local level in the form of unfunded mandates. There are things government does that he may philosophically disagree with, but those functions won’t be going away soon and dumping the burden on counties is not a solution.
One area Mr. Davis may want to look at — and it’s something that perhaps falls within his professed ideology — is amending a property tax and revaluation system that leads to perverse consequences in rural counties. We have a system that works against preserving land and works against keeping rural folks on the land.
Perhaps too Mr. Davis, in keeping with the philosophy of local decision-making, will find a way to support a move towards at least limited Home Rule. Currently local governments are dependent upon the legislature for anything they do. This limits local creativity and in some cases reduces local government to nothing more than administrators for the state. Rural counties don’t have much of a voice in the legislature, so consequently we are often subjected to policies that better fit the more populated areas of the state.
Mr. Davis takes his seat with dirty hands. Let us hope he finds a way to redeem himself by governing not by ideology or rhetorical prescription but by common sense and concern for the welfare of his constituents. Let us hope that the soul he sold to get elected has at least a bit of humanity left in it.