What does a political campaign, John Belushi & ‘Animal House’ have in common? Party animals

What does a political campaign, John Belushi & ‘Animal House’ have in common? Party animals

I’ve been called a conservative.

I’ve been called a liberal.

When I was 19, after being elected to the Western Placer Unified School District board, I was told I had no business being a trustee because I had no kids in school.

I was told by a Mormon that I was “more Mormon” based on how I voted on a dress code issue than two of my fellow trustees, who not only were Mormon but one was a former bishop and the other the wife of the then current bishop.

At the same time I had another trustee call me liberal because my hair covered my neck.

I’ve had people once they found out I was from California and a newspaper editor assume I was liberal and hated Republicans.

When I moved to Manteca 33 years ago, a caller demanded to know what party I was registered with.

When I told her I was a Republican but rarely voted party line, her reply was, “good, we finally have a liberal at the Bulletin.” That was before I was schooled in the ways of the valley’s Blue Dog Democrats.

People make assumptions about other people based on their skin tone, gender, occupation, and age, place of residence, a specific viewpoint, or just about any marker you can use.

It is why the level of rhetoric about so-called “angry voters” today is a bit too much.

It assumes evangelists would never vote for someone who has divorced and remarried.

It assumes a woman is a traitor to her gender if she doesn’t vote for another woman.

It assumes old white men with money and went to Harvard are old school liberals.

It assumes young white men without a lot of money who went to Harvard are borderline socialists.

It assumes blacks never vote Republican and conservatives never vote for blacks.

It assumes senior citizens rarely support school bonds and vote almost exclusively on where a candidate stands on Social Security.

We use those assumptions to place people in boxes.

And then we verbally pummel them in such a manner that it makes the Tasmanian Devil of Bugs Bunny fame appear lethargic in comparison.

And we wonder why politics have become so vulgar?

Actually it is nothing new. Politics have always been vulgar since the days of the Roman Empire.

Pardon the analogy but it’s the best way to describe it. Elections — especially those at levels for positions where those picked will serve far away from the people that elect them — are akin to going to the bathroom.

It’s a vital function that isn’t exactly designed as a pleasant experience. The advent of modern plumbing and the development of air fresheners have made the process more tolerable. But at the end of the day, you are still going to the bathroom.

The same is true of the electorate process. Smoke filled rooms have been replaced by slick campaign ads and the un-pleasantries masked with sound bites.

Toss in robo-calls and robo-texts dripping with disdain for the sending candidates opponents, and even skunks crinkle their nose at the stench.

People are repulsed about what’s taking place today in the race to get free rent at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But let’s be honest — when was the last time a politician was considered for sainthood, let alone canonization?

Is there really much of a difference between appealing to “our dark sides” and feeding us mush or weighing every position you take by hiring consultants to assemble focus groups or conduct polls?

Whether you are stabbed in the front by a crazy person or stabbed in the back by someone smiling with their arm around your shoulder the result is still the same — you’ve got a knife in you.

So how can we make it more civil?

We can start by not trying to put people in specific boxes based on a handful of observations, characteristics or positions and then treating them like they are verbal punching bags.

Heaven forbid, someone could be for gay marriage and against abortion or pro women’s reproductive rights and be a registered Republican.

Or someone could be pro-gun rights, support Israel, be queasy about abortion and be a registered Democrat.

We could also demand politicians stop appealing to our lowest common denominator or promising that we’ll all have two chickens in a pot or five free smartphones per household.

That isn’t going to happen unless we as voters let go of the fantasy that we can have it all from the government and not have to pay a penny more in taxes to get it.

More importantly whoever are the movers and shakers behind the cause du jour have got to stop acting like party animals.

The late Don Stewart — a solid Manteca union man with equally solid community values— asked me once if I voted straight party line.

Don, by the way, was a hardcore Democrat.

When I said I only did once or twice in my life as I voted for the candidate and not the party, he shot right back, “That’s the problem with you Republicans, you never stand behind your party.”

I thought I had him with my comeback: “So if your choice on a ballot was between Jesus Christ who was a Republican and Adolf Hitler who was a Democrat, you’d vote for Adolf Hitler?”

“You’re dammed right,” Don shot back without missing a beat.

There has to be party animals or political parties wouldn’t exist.

But what we have evolved into is a political system where virtually every group championing causes demands its supporters to adopt the party animal mentality.

So if someone doesn’t embrace their position they are the target of venomous attacks even if on practically every other issue there is 100 percent agreement.

It’s tough to govern in such an atmosphere let alone try to run for office.


What does a political campaign, John Belushi & ‘Animal House’ have in common? Party animals

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top