The Michigan primary is in three weeks, on August 2nd. This is the first pre-election summer I’ve ever been a candidate for anything, so I’m spending more time—what? Thinking politically? Dividing the world into red and blue, R and D? Despairing of the current climate?
Actually, what I’ve been thinking most about is lies. Untruths, mendacities, outright deceit, yada yada—and the party that uses them as bait.
The Capitol Steps –may they rest–a musical comedy group originated over 40 years ago, with a collection of congressional staffers who saw the humor potential in pretty much everything that went down in D.C., had a series of sketches called Lirty Dies.
Lirty Dies were merely phrases with the first letters exchanged—in Capitol Steps parlance, when you WHip their FLurds. A great political tradition: We’re not quite sure what we’re saying; you’re not quite sure what you’re hearing. Think Herschel Walker.
The problem? Liars win.
This has always been true—plenty of obvious examples in recent history, from the deceptive Trump appointees on the Supreme Court who knew what settled law was, to that dude in Missouri who said that women who were ‘legitimately’ raped could shut that whole thing down.
But in 2022, alternative facts are the norm in every election, from the Big Lie about 2020 to my own small-potatoes campaign for County Commissioner.
In my State Senate district (MI 37th), for example, there are three candidates running on the Democratic ticket. Only one is actually a Democrat. The other two are both Republicans, active in their county parties–and sometime felons, by the way. One of them was quoted as saying, during his podcast on March 31, that the media was trying to destroy the “nuclear family,” with every commercial showing a “biracial mom and dad.” It’s pretty clear who the target audience is.
I’m not really clear on why they think this tactic—running in the party they loathe—will work. There are two actual Republicans running in the primary, so it’s not as if there was nobody to vote for. Just a chance to SPew up real political SCReech, I guess. (That was a Lirty Die.)
Meanwhile, in the Michigan Legislature, the Democrats (the minority party), having been falsely accused by their Republican opponents of being ‘groomers,’ decided to fight back:
As many Republicans push conspiracies about schoolchildren being “groomed” in public schools, a bill introduced by Democrats in the Michigan House that would create a legal pathway to prosecute people who “groom” minors in sexual abuse cases idles, untouched by the Republican majority.
Partly this is because former (Republican) House Speaker Chatfield is under investigation for actually grooming a 15-yr old girl when he was her teacher at a Christian Academy founded by his father. But mostly, it’s just a ruby-red response to being called out and held accountable for Lirty Dies.
Two weeks ago, the four women running for the Democratic slot in my County Commission district (including me) held an open-air listening session at a local park. We sent out postcards to likely primary voters to invite them. The weather was perfect, and we had live music and cookies.
The event was a great success—somewhere between 50 and 60 voters showed up, and for two hours, each of us was grilled (or encouraged) by friendly neighbors. People asked good questions about local issues—why our internet infrastructure is inadequate or worse, how to build and repurpose affordable housing, and so on.
The biggest issue is clean water. We live on a peninsula surrounded by Lake Michigan, so passing a mandatory septic ordinance, while the least sexy of issues, is critical.
Midway through the afternoon, an older gentleman and his wife showed up. I greeted him with an outstretched hand, as he passed a table with a fellow Dem collecting signatures for Promote the Vote. Are they for or against mail-in ballots? He asked. For, I told him.
Mail-in ballots are how the 2020 election was stolen, he said. Oh oh.
I decided to just listen to his issues and concerns. He talked about responsible farming and compost, which seemed to be something we had in common. Then he asked me about my background. I told him I was a retired teacher.
And he proceeded to regurgitate incredible slander about public education, the crapola now floating above every local election: The teachers were teaching kids to hate being white. They were telling lies about history. They were teaching kids about perverted sex (he was embarrassed when he said this, looking down at the ground). There were dirty books, too.
Ironically, his seven children had all attended and graduated from the public school no more than a mile down the road. This is a school where I volunteered—before the pandemic—and that I thought was a good public school, a school that offered a lot of programming for a small district and had a solid staff.
I told him I had been in the classroom for nearly 35 years, then volunteered in three local districts in this county, and I did not believe that teachers routinely did those things. Any teacher who overstepped their bounds in the classroom could and should be called out. By parents—or by an administrator. But this was not the way public education (which is controlled by a locally elected board) worked.
Well, he said. This just started.
He was OK with the school when his kids were there—the teachers were pretty good, and he went to all the football games. But now, he said, teachers have started doing bad things all over the country.
What, specifically? Well, supporting the Blacks, he said. Against the police. Going against the Bible. He struggled to remember what he’d read—some letters, maybe? (No way was I going to fill in the acronym for him. He’d already soaked up too much falsehood.)
You should start volunteering again, he said. Things have really changed in the last couple of years.
I passed him on to another candidate, but he lingered in my mind. Not a bad guy. But he’d been lied to, and he trusted the liars. It was as simple as that.