Once you enter into politics, everybody comments about how dirty it must be. Sadly, many times they are right. Often, it is because we, along with those around us, do not demand better.
After viewing what has been and is now occurring on some of the local, state and federal races, I for one am concerned that candidates and their supporters do not or will not strive to work in a more “courageous and honorable manner.” They believe that anything is OK in politics, as long as you win. This can include lying, cheating, character assassination and civil hooliganism.
When I was running for Palm Coast City Council, Jerry Full, Sean Burns and I had a group interview with the editorial board of the Daytona Beach News-Journal. While we were from different parties in a nonpartisan election, we respected each other enough to discuss our vision and views and would not attack each other’s character.
In fact, I remember turning to Sean Burns after he discussed one of his views on growth management and said, “You know Sean, that’s a really good idea. If I get elected, I’ll do what I can to make that happen.” The editorial board was stunned. When everything was concluded, one of the interviewers said, “Wow, you guys actually get along together don’t you?” It was true, we did. We focused on issues and not personal attacks.
Sad to say, since that time, local politics has degenerated into the type of campaigning we see at the state and federal level which, in my opinion, is not showing those currently elected, or those seeking election, in a very favorable light.
In fact, it is so negative that I think it is a reasonable explanation as to why voter turnout in Flagler County elections is getting lower: Nobody sees anybody worth getting out of the car to vote for.
I have no doubt 2012 will set high marks in dirty campaigning. Locally, in the last election, nasty politics has already been demonstrated. From what I’m seeing within local clubs, the flames are still burning. To me, this behavior is an embarrassment and demonstrates a lack of moral strength from those who ask to be our community leaders. They should be ashamed, but instead, they hide behind their party, political action committees and volunteers and feign no knowledge of what’s going on. Amazing.
Whether any candidate is, or is not worthy to become elected should be decided by free and clear elections, not tainted by political character assassination and media hype. I am outraged we have allowed this to go on for so long. Yet, we wonder why we don’t have quality candidates to vote for.
I have no personal interest in whether any specific candidate is elected or not, but I have decided one thing. I have decided I won’t take part in activities that violate the kind of moral standards and civil integrity I was brought up with and try to uphold. I’m certain that at times I don’t quite reach my own mark, but at least I try and often apologize when I fail.
Therefore, I submit the following statements to the citizens of Flagler County for consideration. Call it “A Statement by the Citizens and Community Leaders on Election Fairness.”
During the coming elections, as leaders and citizens of the community, we should have the courage to:
1) welcome those with diverse views,
2) restore civility in local elections regardless of what goes on elsewhere,
3) take responsibility for our actions and words while working for candidates, and demand the same responsibility from those we choose to support,
4) be a leader in seeking civility, fairness and unity when promoting candidates and their causes,
5) reconcile with those who have tried to harm us in word or deed,
6) treat others with kindness, respect and compassion,
7) move on together when a decision has been made even if we still disagree,
8) do the best we can to work with integrity during a campaign, and demand integrity of those we work with,
9) not support candidates or political action committees that choose to promote their candidate with negative campaigning as opposed to an open and fair discussion of the facts or issues,
10) live responsibly, working for the betterment of our community.
Consider how your actions might help in unifying our city and the county. I ask you all to be courageous in standing up for a just society that takes the high road, starting now in 2012 with local elections. Let us be people of character, demanding those who would lead us to have integrity and courage.
Lastly, if anybody out there agrees with me, especially if you are a leader in the business, religious or political community, take the time to write a short note to the editors of local newspapers, chat rooms and blogs to let them know you too plan to stand up, and be a leader with courage. Is there anybody else with me on this?
Frank J. Meeker represents District 2 on the Palm Coast City Council.