Politics is not just about elections.
It can seem that way, especially now, during the final few hours before the primary when local candidates – many of whom are under real pressure for the first time in their lives – go bat-shit crazy with fear, failing self-confidence and false hubris.
Like Dr. Thompson said so eloquently, “That is the nature of professional politics. Many are called, but few survive the nut-cutting hour…”
Next Tuesday the die will be cast and the field whittled down to the true players; the Big Dogs who are moving on to the general. The also-rans – the fringe candidates and political dilettantes – will soon be forgotten. Their friends and family will openly laugh and humiliate them, and their excuses will fall on deaf ears. No one will care.
Alliances will shift overnight and things will take a decidedly serious turn as campaigns gear up for the big dance in November.
Last Sunday I took a leisurely drive down to the local library to “early vote.”
The most direct route from our home takes me along the west bank of the beautiful Halifax river; and as I drove along enjoying the view on a late summer morning, I smoked an American Spirit Black and contemplated the fact that what I was about to accomplish is the culmination of what passes for our political process in 2016.
As I turned the corner to the Ormond Beach regional library, I saw that the parking area was virtually awash in campaign signs, each blending into the other to form a kaleidoscope of bright colors and shapes that encircled the entire lot like an impenetrable blockade.
So many signs in such tight confines that the individual messages became meaningless.
I slowed and navigated the phalanx of cheap nylon tents and lawn chairs occupied by perspiring candidates and their supporters, each wearing campaign t-shirts like battledress, sucking on water bottles, and staking out territory at what must be the ragged edge of the solicitation restrictions.
I assume they were acting out of some desperate belief that their very proximity to the door could sway a vote or two.
While it wasn’t utter chaos – given the strong emotions of the election cycle, it had all the elements for things to turn sour quickly.
I thought how ironic it was that for the past six-months the various candidates have groveled at our feet, spent tens of thousands of dollars, and all but publicly defiled themselves for our vote – only to impede that very process at the actual point of sale.
Honestly, I’ve seen polling place wars before – but last weekend many early voting locations around Volusia County looked like an actual skirmish encampment.
I have to admit; it was somewhat overwhelming – even claustrophobic.
Most of you don’t know this, but I have lived with social anxiety and obsessive/compulsive disorder since I was very young.
No kidding. It can be debilitating, too.
For me, it takes several forms – mental and physical rituals dictate how I turn off lights and appliances, how food is prepared and served (buffet? Not happening), the copious use of hand sanitizer – even certain colors can be problematic (for instance, any shade of orange is a no-no in our house).
Weird? You bet.
But to my knowledge there is no single accepted theory on why it occurs – and even less consensus on the efficacy of the limited treatment options available.
Many highly successful people have suffered with OCD, to include, Beethoven, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Howard Hughes – and celebrities, such as Howie Mandel, Harrison Ford, Justin Timberlake and Leonardo DiCaprio.
It’s quite a distinguished list, actually. So, I feel like I’m in good company.
In most situations, I function with reasonable normalcy (I know some may debate that) and I have held positions of high responsibility most of my adult life. In fact, I think the disorder actually made me a better police officer, given the close attention to detail, intense focus and perseverance required of a good investigator.
This condition can manifest itself in odd ways. For instance, I can speak comfortably, even intelligently, in front of very large groups of people – yet a small dinner party or brief social interaction can result in near paralysis.
Because of my social phobia, don’t expect me to answer the phone on certain days, join a committee, run for political office – or even respond to a knock at the door. And now that I’m retired – although I can’t do everything I want to do – I never have to do anything I don’t want to do.
Just know it’s not you. It’s me.
I don’t take medication or participate in cognitive therapies, but when things get debilitating I have time-tested coping mechanisms that allow me to deal with acute OC flare ups with relative ease.
For example, I have a real aversion to crowds and the thought of standing in queue at my assigned polling place on election day would be extremely uncomfortable.
So, I simply avoid that situation.
In fact, I probably wouldn’t vote if the space were too crowded and I have considered casting my ballot by mail in the future to avoid these issues.
Perhaps these sensitivities are why I took such close notice of the situation in the parking lot last weekend, but I suspect I’m not alone.
I understand from social media posts and media accounts that things were worse at other locations. Reports of petty bickering and nasty taunts between campaign operatives – and in some cases, voters – resulting in angry confrontations, etc.
Just what folks want to see on their way to the polls, eh?
It really engenders confidence in a candidate when you see his or her operatives squabbling, squawking and strutting around the parking lot like an unhinged Kelso rooster.
Speaking of unbalanced electioneers, I was particularly impressed when I read accounts of the abhorrent conduct of the Republican’s own Chairman-for-Life Tony Ledbetter.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, when voters began arriving at the City Island polling location last weekend they found tents, chairs and campaign signs completely blocking parking spaces which, as common sense would dictate, had been reserved for the voting public and patrons of the library.
This annoying impediment to the electoral process was met with calls to the City of Daytona Beach’s code enforcement division who responded to investigate. After looking things over, the code officer explained the applicable ordinance – and requested voluntarily compliance from representatives of the various campaigns – rather than write citations.
We’re told everyone complied with the rules – except Chairman Ledbetter.
After all, past practice tells us that Tony feels the rules only apply to the little people.
Although Ledbetter refused to comment to the News-Journal on his latest obstructionist grandstanding; when he was caught doing the same damn thing in 2014, he denigrated officers as “nut jobs” and rationalized his conduct as, “It’s free speech. Get used to it.”
I happen to know that this isn’t the first time Tony has attempted to intimidate code enforcement officers with his “Do you know who I am?” condescending horseshit.
And he knows exactly what I’m talking about.
What an asshole. What a complete asshole.
In my view, it is simply inconceivable that a giddy little creep like like Tony Ledbetter is habitually permitted to openly embarrass and defame the reputation of tens of thousands of area Republicans as he rules their local executive committee like a feudal lord.
No rules, no integrity – and no restrictions on his perception of power, ethics or honor.
Look, I understand that I have serious issues. But I can assure you that my ability to recognize and reject bullshit is just as sharp and nimble as it ever was.
Take my word for it. It’s time for Tony Ledbetter to resign.
Now, get out there and run the gauntlet on Saturday – cast your vote and make a difference. It’s important.
Have a great weekend, kids.