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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Principled Politics - and the Lack Thereof

As the mayoral run-off in Hoboken inches closer, the attacks are getting faster and stupider.

Mister Snitch seems willing to go to any length to attack Carol Marsh. Not surprising. He supported a candidate that ran against Dave Roberts (the incumbent) and claimed he was "the candidate without affiliations", but who endorsed Dave Robers before the election count was cold. DeLea's blog cited electoral shennanigans. Then he pulled this "it is my duty" crap-line to explain his hypocrisy. My repeated questioning for explanations has only been met with "You gotta trust me" answers.

I also noticed that my comments to this effect were quickly deleted from his blog. What's the matter? You can't handle someone pointing out your hypocrisy?

I'll say here what I said there: You either stand for principles or you stand for sound-bites and opportunism. When you spend several weeks and several thousand dollars telling people that you want to end politics as usual, you simply cannot turn around and endorse the incumbent and have a shred of credibility left in your body. Yes, politiicans do it all the time. No, we shouldn't stand for it.

Snitch - among many others - has also been reporting on behind-the-scenes connections between David Roberts and Senator Jon Corzine. After checking with the Corzine campaign, the reports have been exaggerated or outright false. For instance, Corzine was criticized for giving to the Hudson County Democratic Organization - which he did. He also gave money to every other county Democratic organization in New Jersey. Roberts' campaign was proud to hand out a flyer where they cut and pasted sections of a letter from Senator Corzine to Mayor Roberts - what they don't say is that it was the same type of form letter any elected official can get from their Senator by writing a letter and asking for it. Rumors were swirling that Corzine had personally contacted every candidate on the slate to try and round up support for Roberts - which was again not true. They were contacted and asked to dispose of their remaining campaign funds by making contributions. None of which constitutes an endorsement.

My understanding of the matter - after talking directly with the Corzine campaign - is that Jon Corzine knows David Roberts personally and they are on friendly terms. However, the Senator does not involve himself in local political decisions. He does vote, but he won't publicize for whom he votes. It's his personal decision and he wants to keep it that way.

When you don't stand for what you say, you're a hypocrite. For way too long, we've accepted that in our politicians from every level - from the dogcatcher to the White House. It has to stop. The only way it will stop is for you and me to simply not vote for people who are so obviously lying. It's too late to get involved by the time the general election comes around. You have to be involved in the whole process - help select a primary contender, fight for what you believe in, and maybe, just maybe, you can squeak out a win. If not, you don't capitulate and try to sleep with the enemy. You reload, regroup, and get ready for the next time.

What's happened in Hoboken is exactly what happened in Jersey City last year. It's a political process called "co-opting the opposition". In Jersey City, Mayor Glen Cunningham died suddenly and the city had to throw up an election. This year, for the regularly scheduled election, Mayor Healy's team suddenly included the third (Willie Flood) and fourth (Steve Lipski) place finishers in the special election. It's pretty easy to see that you can earn a safe seat in future elections by throwing your lot in with the established candidate.

I want to be clear - not all political alliances are suspect. If, for example, DeLea were to have told me, "I thought Roberts didn't have a clue, but he called and we talked and discussed his plans. After that, I had to admit I was wrong." Same thing for Steve Lipski and Willie Flood in Jersey City. If you are going to suddenly join forces with the person you just spent several thousand dollars trying to convince people not to support, I think you need a better explanation than, "I think it's the best we can do. Trust me."

I try and live my life by a consistent set of principles - though I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes fail. However, I'm also honest when I fail and don't try to convince others that my failure was actually me doing the right thing all along.

Once upon a time, I'm told, people were proud of their politicians. They wanted their kids to grow up to be civic leaders. I find it hard to believe that many do so now. In fact, I'm fairly certain that most people would not want their kids to become involved in politics because of the moral price they are asked to pay for doing so. That's wrong - and on many levels.

If we truly want to save our country, then we have to start by demanding more and better from the politicians we elect at the local level. After all, very few get started by running for Senator. If we reward honestly and principled governance at lower levels, then we can demand it at higher levels. If we are willing to accept corruption and the tarring of a good candidates name at lower levels, then we should not surprised when we get fiascoes like the 2000 and 2004 elections at the national level.

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