It’s time to worry … election season is upon us
October 6, 2006
I normally get a little nervous around election time, given my natural skepticism about politics in general and politicians in particular, but I find myself a bit more on edge this time around.It’s a combination of factors, not the least of which is our local and state array of contests, which seem to have been calculated to make butterflies take up residence in my heart and stomach.Locally, we’ve got the best sheriff in the state being challenged by a guy who’s never even had a gun on his hip or an elective office of any sort to call his own. I’ve never had any reason to think Rick Magnuson is a flake, in fact I’ve always found him interesting, even engaging in a way, what with his dedication to that old ’60s and ’70s thing, “performance art.”His passion is not terribly original, to my way of thinking, since artists such as Vito Acconci, Hermann Nitsch, Joseph Beuys, Wolf Vostell and Allan Kaprow, (who coined the term “happenings”) were all on the avant-garde fringe in their heyday four decades ago. But Magnuson’s efforts have been amusing and intriguing, and I was one of many who initially thought his campaign to unseat incumbent Bob Braudis was just another bit of art.Clearly, his designs go deeper than that, although I can’t say I’ve seen any evidence that his thinking is all that profound on things that really matter in the sheriff’s line of work. Braudis, on the other hand, has redefined the concept of a sheriff who thinks a lot about what he does, and he has the experience to back up his musings, since he was a deputy and a county commissioner before he sat down at the sheriff’s desk. And aside from a few lunatics whose anti-drug fixations have muddled their minds irreparably, Braudis has earned the trust and admiration of a broad range of locals during his years in office.We also have some county commission contests that warrant a little nervousness.In Pitkin County, incumbent Patti Clapper is fending off a challenge from local real estate agent and developer (of his own home property) Tim Mooney, whose mysterious declarations have lent a macabre atmosphere to the race. Personally, I think Patti’s done a pretty good job, and I can’t tell if Mooney could or would do a better one. His main appeal seems to be his insistent desire to be a gadfly and a contrarian, two attributes that are potentially valuable in the county’s pell-mell charge to become just another place where the rich can get ever richer.And in Garfield County, incumbent Tresi Houpt is facing local businessman Steve Reynolds, another case where a thoughtful and progressive public servant faces a challenge from someone who appears to be the exact opposite. Reynolds’ public statements are so vapid and confused, I have to wonder if he has done any research for this effort or has decided to adopt a “blank slate” as his campaign platform as well as his intellectual foundation.In these and other local contests, undoubtedly more information will assist local voters in making choices that will either advance the cause of progressive government or set it back.But what truly has me worried these days is the state of our election process itself, in particular the battle over the use of electronic voting machines.This is a statewide matter, and at this point it appears that those who endorse electronic voting have won the day, at least in the short term, as a judge has declined to outlaw their use but has required the secretary of state to put in place measures to ensure that the elections will not be undermined by false results.My concern, however, is that there seems to be a concerted national effort under way to get these machines into universal use, despite their drawbacks, and the effort seems to have the backing of the national Republican machine, which already has stolen two elections through underhanded tactics (the 2000 and 2004 presidential contests). This has in effect meant that we have suffered two bloodless coups, and I would not put it past those in power in Washington to try for another one this year, and again in two years when it comes time to pick a replacement for George W. Bush.As Bob Dylan once said, “Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.” Technology can be a boon or a bane, and in this case the latter is most likely.Watch, and learn.