Another Flower Mound election brouhaha is in progress, hence, the politicking and hurling of brickbats has begun. As of this writing, the usual pokes and jabs have not come from the candidates themselves, but from a contingent of hatchet men (and women) who seem to be using Facebook, blogs and other assorted media tools to undermine those who had the temerity to run for public office.
It would be inaccurate to say that smears are being used because it’s highly doubtful there’s anything shady about the reputations of the four candidates. But, as is generally the case in politics, when you can’t find dirt on someone, accuse them of being inexperienced, incompetent and/or devoid of a service record on commissions, boards, fundraising groups, etc. The implication is that, in order to be an elected official, one must go through a series of steps, most of which are political appointments, before one becomes, shall I say, a professional politician? Let’s be honest; it doesn’t take a Mensa IQ to be one of 5 votes on a legislative body in a fairly small town.
What it does take is good judgment, honesty and a commitment to use your vote in the best interests of the community, leaving personal gain or aggrandizement out of the equation. Several years ago, this town was under the merciless grip of a tyrannical mayor and council backed by a well-organized political action committee with the power to elect anyone they chose. Consequently, anyone who dared disagree with any of their policies was marked for destruction. In fact, the very idea that someone would fill out a candidate form to run against them meant exposure to an avalanche of vicious smears and cleverly inserted innuendo capable of eviscerating a saint.
One such man was the epitome of decency and civility; an absolute pillar of the community. He raised his family in this town and held a respectable management position in one of the larger organizations. Inasmuch as he disagreed with the direction council members were going, he decided to do his civic duty and run for a seat. Before you could say “character assassination”, he found himself victimized by a malevolent political machine which employed cold-hearted insinuation tactics about his family, his finances, even his late payment on a water bill from years prior to his campaign.
Okay, I realize that political fairness is an oxymoron, but the least we can do is give people a chance by listening to their reasons for running, watch how they handle themselves in the public forums, and, barring any criminal or ethical violations that would disqualify them, formulate our decisions based on what we’ve seen and heard.
This tendency to criticize new entrants, as if those with a fresh perspective must wait their turn in the pecking order, is pathetically elitist. We should be encouraging people to get involved in the decision-making process, rather than trying to demoralize them. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see the candidates reach out to each other with sincere handshakes and polite chats, instead of staring coldly as they pass each other at public events? Where did the idea come from that candidates must loathe their opponents?
Moreover, what about this notion that the candidates’ supporters must be ugly and mean-spirited toward the opposition? If you disagree with a policy position of a contender, you should put forward your divergent view, not launch a series of specious accusations. Such behavior only makes it look as though you’re on the payroll of the candidates you’re supporting. Furthermore, it doesn’t make your choice look any better because they become associated with your hostility and your dishonest speculations.
Those aforementioned tyrants, who once controlled every facet of life in this town, were ultimately exposed for the devious and deceitful people they were and they suffered an ignominious defeat at the polls. I’m proud to have played a small role in the result and I remember it as Flower Mound’s finest hour! A new Mayor and Council were elected and soon began to put our town back on the right track. For the next several years we were blessed with leaders who ushered in a new era of honesty and sincere appreciation for the residents, even those who may have had opinions that differed from theirs.
The current Mayor and Council are to be admired for continuing in that newly-advanced tradition of courtesy and respect for contrasting views. Sadly, what we, and they, have to deal with are those who feel compelled to inject antagonism into every verbal description of decent people who merely want to exercise their right to play a role in the democratic process. Let’s welcome them instead of attempting to trash them!
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.