Open and free elections were the hallmark of American democracy after its founding almost 250 years ago. Sadly, the hallmark label seems tarnished as we’ve transformed election day which once was a day of celebration, into an almost endless election season. Folks from both sides of the political aisle publicly attack each other’s credibility, without cause or reason, and attack the institutions of democracy if they don’t get their way. This degradation that probably started in Washington DC, has now crept into local elections. For the relatively few dollars it cost to submit an election letter to local papers, one can with impunity, publicly attack the credibility of a fellow citizen and/or their supporters.
One such letter in last Saturday’s paper began “From my understanding, the endorsement of Natalie Barnes for senator was underhanded”. The author also uses the word “shenanigans”, but offers no information to support the allegation. As a delegate in attendance at the Scott County GOP convention that overwhelmingly endorsed Ms. Barnes for senator over Eric Pratt, I observed absolutely nothing that would justify the accusation made by the letter’s author.
I was equally disappointed to read Prior Lake Mayor Briggs’s letter in the American wherein he also appears intent on undermining Barnes endorsement, by discrediting the convention that chose her over Pratt. Briggs’s letter is full of inuendo questioning the convention endorsing process and claiming that delegates “weren’t notified of the convention”, but doesn’t offer any facts or specifics to support his claims. Since I’m not aware that Briggs was in attendance at the convention, I can only speculate on where he got his information.
If Briggs is suggesting that Pratt lost the endorsement because delegates who would have supported him weren’t notified and consequently didn’t show up— well that’s a stretch. Are we to believe that the volunteers who were assisting in planning the convention, selectively decided what delegates to notify and what delegates not to notify, or equally unbelievable, that elected delegates didn’t know when or where the convention would occur? It’s extremely disappointing, that a sitting mayor would publicly discredit the open and public process by which a fellow citizen gets endorsed for public office.
Making matters worse, I have in-hand, copies of circulated emails encouraging democrats to vote as republicans in the primary using the republican ballot instead of the democrat one, and to vote for Pratt in order to deny the GOP endorsed candidate from being on the November ballot. While these “shenanigans” aren’t illegal, to suggest that anything in politics is fair even if it’s unfair, is to undermine one of the bedrock principles of democracy.
Americans are fed up with the nastiness of election politics and I have little doubt these bull dog type tactics are driving many qualified individuals from pursuing public office. Why should someone offer themselves for public service, if the result is going to be public attacks on their credibility, without cause? Isn’t it time to return mutual respect and fairness to the election process, starting here at the local level?
I did submit this letter with a couple minor changes to the editor of the Prior Lake American and the Shakopee Valley News, with authorization to charge my credit card for the appropriate fee for election letters. It was rejected as unacceptable.