“…politicians don’t beg for money; they sell a service: namely, use of government’s coercive power to achieve for interest groups what these groups cannot or will not achieve peacefully on the market. A politician seeking office gets his funds by begging no more than an accountant or an architect gets his funds by begging. Like the accountant and architect, the politician offers a quid pro quo in exchange for campaign contributions. The difference, of course, is that the quid pro quo supplied by the accountant or architect—unlike that supplied by most politicians—isn’t a promise to reduce the liberties or confiscate the wealth of innocent third parties.”
–Dr. Donald J. Boudreaux, a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Boudreaux is also an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.
They say money can’t buy happiness.
But, as history proves, in Volusia County, it can buy an election for those hand-select candidates intent on preserving the status quo for uber-wealthy insiders by perpetuating the transactional politics that shunt public funds to the for-profit projects of those with a chip in the game.
Unfortunately, the quality of representation we are left with doesn’t seem to matter. . .
Don’t take my word for it.
I encourage everyone to review campaign finance reports and see which candidates for public office in Volusia County are being underwritten by big money developers, insurance executives, government contractors and others. You can find those reports here: https://www.voterfocus.com/CampaignFinance/candidate_pr.php?c=volusia
One side of Volusia’s increasingly divided electorate (let’s call them the Republican Executive Committee of Volusia County) who traditionally support what is commonly described as “establishment” candidates, do not see anything wrong with this perfectly legal “arrangement” – while others (let’s call them long-suffering Volusia County Taxpayers) aligned with “grassroots” candidates who are denied the competitive benefit of this massive individual and corporate largesse believe the practice skews the playing the field.
Because it does.
I suppose how you view that Faustian bargain depends upon which side your bread is buttered on.
At the risk of offending, I’m just going to come out and say it – I am less than impressed with the bulk of this year’s crop of local office seekers – and don’t get me started on the quality of incumbents seeking reelection.
The only difference being, when retread politicians seek another bite at the apple, you know in advance exactly what you are getting.
Look, I am not painting the entire field with the same brush, there are some standouts in various races across the political spectrum, but as we head into the August primary, I’m just not “feeling” it.
Maybe it’s just a case of early season malaise – who knows?
I simply don’t see a lot of originality or imagination among the pack – just more partisan polarization, mediocrity, and “Us vs. Them” rhetoric dominating the discussion. In fact, one wonders why so much money is being showered on certain candidates if everyone in the field is of one mind on the seminal issues of our time?
I’m being facetious. . .
The West Volusia Beacon recently reported on a forum for Volusia County Council candidates hosted by the DeLeon Springs Community Association:
“As some 60 or 70 people watched and listened, candidates wasted no time decrying the seemingly out-of-control growth and development in Volusia County.”
It would appear to anyone watching that at least the candidates for the at-large seat are all on the same page. . .
That’s where the nuance of the political stump speech comes in.
For instance, at-large candidate Doug Pettit (a “grassroots” favorite supported by Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower) said:
“The No. 1 issue for me is overdevelopment,” at-large County Council candidate Doug Pettit said. “We didn’t get here overnight… This is years of bad decisions.”
While the “establishment” darling, Jake Johansson, couched the same issue another way:
“We need to address our infrastructure — the care of our roads,” he said. “I believe infrastructure is our No. 1 issue.”
Wow. Two “Number One” issues on either side of the same coin. . .
How does Mr. Pettit plan to stop overdevelopment and reverse “years of bad decisions”?
Because that is a legal impossibility here in the Sunshine State – and a campaign promise tailormade to frustrate residents seeking moderation and common-sense protections.
Is Mr. Johansson playing on our collective fear – crowing about our overstressed transportation “infrastructure” as a means of ameliorating public concerns so the bulldozers can continue to roar?
Will he promise “infrastructure improvements” then rubber stamp every land use and density amendment that comes before him without any consideration for the low-impact regulations many residents are desperately seeking?
And how do they plan to pay for it all?
I’m asking. Because, at present, Mr. Johansson has a war chest stuffed with $96,499 (for a Volusia County Council race?) while Mr. Pettit, his closest competitor, has collected a modest $23,854 going into the primary. . .
The stakes are high, and based upon the source and magnitude of Mr. Johansson’s campaign contributions, the common perception is that he aligns with more of the same. . .
Am I wrong?
Good luck trying to decipher the gradient tones and hidden meanings of campaign speeches as things heat up – because that lack of specificity is what allows successful candidates to crow “that’s not what I said!” when their constituents cry foul.
Personally, of the four at-large candidates quoted in the Beacon article, I thought Sherrise Boyd had the most honest and authentic take:
“The No. 1 problem in our county is a lack of faith in government,” she said. “The main issue is that we are not working together now… If we don’t come together… then what are we going to do?”
Amen. And spot on.
The traditional Silly Season that normally begins after the political peloton has been winnowed to serious contenders has started early – at least on social media. Unlike the candidate’s oblique soundbites, the wild accusations, counteraccusations, distortions, threats, and gross misrepresentations that are flying from all sides are unambiguous.
Putting chaff in the air to disorient, destabilize, and deflect attention from the genuine issues is known as the “Art of Distraction” – and it is the oldest tactic in the political playbook.
Unfortunately, things have quickly turned from political to personal – especially in hotly contested Volusia County Council races. . .
Trust me. There is a lot at stake for those with a real chip in the game, but I can assure you some of our ‘Rich & Powerful’ are quietly concerned about the tone and tenor this early in the campaign season – a new low, even for the fetid shit-trench of Volusia County politics.
Sadly, this “whatever it takes” no-holds-barred environment now includes ad hominem attacks on anyone with an opposing viewpoint as some highly skilled “establishment” and “grassroots” champions fritter away their political gravitas screaming insults on social media like demented dunk-tank clowns.
This calculated deflection is a double-edged sword, and some have forgotten that these tactics can project fear rather than confidence – and that is the one unforgivable mistake in modern political campaigns.
Most disappointing, mudslinging always narrows the discussion to various likeminded echo chambers as the fringe elements drown out substantive discourse.
In my experience, this squalid horseshit has come to define even non-partisan local races and can be disconcerting to those unfamiliar with the up-close-and-personal nature of Volusia County political knife fights – and it is a prime reason why many smart people choose to remain out of the fray further limiting the pool – leaving We, The Little People with a perpetual Sophie’s Choice each election day.
Regardless, as the nut-cutting hour draws close, some very important people are getting nervous.
While some camps are betting that Volusia County voters are of the opinion Chairman Brower has lost focus and squandered the chance he was given to find consensus and bring substantive change – others believe that voters are royally pissed off that Volusia’s stodgy Old Guard arrogantly ignored their previous mandate and blocked Mr. Brower at every opportunity.
Time will tell. But one thing is certain:
As Chairman Brower’s 2020 victory over an entrenched and incredibly well-financed “establishment” candidate proved – votes beat money every time – and even those incredibly influential insiders who have spent a shit-ton of money to perpetuate the strategic stagnation of the status quo are worried by these rapidly changing dynamics.
They should be.
Recent history proves that when Volusia County voters tune out the demagoguery and look past the glossy mailers – remove the ring from our nose and become informed voters concerned about our collective quality of life and a level economic playing field – we can fundamentally change the tired status quo and return representation to all residents of Volusia County, not just those with the wherewithal to pay to play.
Elections have consequences. Caveat emptor.