Dirty Politics: School Board Edition

What exactly would it take to find some, any unity at all amongst our fellow Americans? One wonders if this country is now irreparably doomed by the political divisions that exist. These divisions that so divide us one from another.

You need only look to the current campaign for the vacated seat on the local school board to see the vitriol that currently consumes politics and divides so many of our neighbors and friends. The campaign features three candidates vying for the unexpired term that was open when the last officeholder quit.

It has largely been a campaign waged on the pages of Facebook where two female candidates are running with the lone male candidate largely running a “stealth” operation. These pages represent a microcosm of our current society and how far we have slipped.

This Facebook frenzy of hate has largely been directed at one candidate primarily for her stance on the individual’s freedom to choose. Whether that be to choose to mask or not to mask, to vaccinate, or to not vaccinate. From the candidate’s website and many video posts you see that she is not anti-mask or anti-vaccine, she believes that the individual has the right to determine for themselves what the right choice is for them. When did this become a problem?

Are we as a community comfortable with a campaign that, because of political or issue-related differences, would seek to personally destroy another candidate?

Here are a few examples garnered from Facebook posts to illustrate to what extremes so many people on the platform are willing to go with personal attacks.

First, after receiving an endorsement from a prominent local doctor as well as the candidate’s employer, the attacks begin to twist the words of the doctor into an attack on the teachers.

The doctor stated that the “curriculum needs to return to the basics and a high school diploma should be a meaningful credential. To this end, teachers should be held accountable for student performance, and teachers who are struggling should receive remediation. The teachers who are doing a great job should be rewarded accordingly.”

This is the part of the endorsement that enraged the opponents. How dare he attack teachers? But did he? One could argue that he agrees that teachers need help in areas where poor student performance is prevalent and they deserve better pay for the efforts they make to excel in their profession.

It is certainly hard to argue against his first observation about diplomas being meaningful credentials given the latest SC Dept. of Education’s release of the SC Report Cards. Less than 50 percent of Irmo High students are college-ready at graduation and barely 54 percent are career-ready upon graduating. Go look for yourself. Facts are pesky things.

Next, you have a guy running the opponent’s campaign who cried out for unity, grace and transparency at a public speaking session of a past board meeting. This person acting as the mudslinger-in-chief, who fails to see his own hypocrisy of non-transparency. Don’t you think he should at least inform readers of the fact that his posts are biased? He has a horse in this race. How could he not be biased? Really? Disclosure would be helpful, wouldn’t it?

And then you have the cancel culturists, that have no compunction whatsoever in determining that the doctor’s endorsement is so egregious that it requires immediate inquiries be submitted to the medical board and board of nursing to review the positions of the candidate and her employer. Talk about the politics of personal destruction! Posting email addresses and encouraging people to contact the doctor to voice their concerns. Going after the livelihoods of some opponents because of political differences. Oh, but it is my right they say. You can bet these guys were a blast to be around in high school.

And lastly, there is the guy commenting on the post where the one candidate was accused of deleting a Twitter account for posts from nearly a decade ago. He says he understands that people can change and this understanding comes because he is currently in sustained rehab for substance abuse and alcohol abuse. Although he is unwilling to grant leniency in her case, because well you know, it’s just different for her. If one was to look a decade into his past would he be proud of skeletons that could surface? Just a thought. Oh! And by the way, he also hopes the doctor’s practice goes bankrupt. Nice guy!

These are but a few of the posts, albeit the worst ones. There are more, name-calling, finger-wagging and so on. You get the picture. And then you have the sycophants piling on. Surely these people were not raised in the South or their mommas would have taught them, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” These folks have no problem putting these comments out on a public page with their names on them for God and everybody to see. Shame on you!

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

And while we are on the subject of campaigns, why will their preferred candidate not agree to a live public forum? You know, a forum where the questions are not scripted or leaked in advance. These types of forums are generally the best way to evaluate and get to know all of the candidates prior to voting.  Both of the other candidates have agreed. Why is their candidate afraid to participate? Maybe she would prefer the voters not to get to know her. Maybe she is uncomfortable in the public spotlight without a script? Afraid of taking questions that she doesn’t know the answer to in advance? Sounds like another basement stealth campaign. And we know how that one has turned out.

While both candidates have endorsements, one candidate has a diverse group of supporters endorsing her campaign while the other candidate has endorsements from literally two campaign losers and a quitter. Go figure. All three are former board members. And you don’t think she is not going to seek their counsel and advice?  Not beholden to anyone. Got it!

Wouldn’t it be terrific if both sides could support their candidate of choice? Post articles and letters of support. Extoll the virtues of their preferred candidate without trying to destroy the other.  Run a campaign that you can be proud of. This is an interesting concept that is lost in today’s divided country.  Let each campaign run their best race and may the best candidate win. Because when you examine these Facebook pages, one side is taking the positive approach and seemingly will not be baited into participating in partisan attacks. Bravo! That takes courage!

People are tired of these tactics and are seeing them for what they are. Desperate! This is the political strategy employed when you have a weak candidate that is afraid to stand on their own two legs, won’t debate, and is afraid to go off-script. All you have left is to go negative. This is the type of campaign that literally gives politics a dirty name. Turn loose the ankle biters!

So I pose you a question, as in the famous words of Joseph N. Welch, Special Counsel for the Army, to Sen. Joe McCarthy, on June 9, 1954:

“Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

And so it goes.

Jeff Dickson