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Robert J. Elisberg

Robert J. Elisberg

Posted: May 25, 2006 01:42 PM

All Politics Are Loco


This is just a frivolous, insignificant local matter. If you don't like that sort of thing, read no further. But then, former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill once famously said, "All politics are local." So maybe...

Ladies and gents, moms and dads, boys and girls of all ages, the local political primary circus has come to town.

This was a first...

Usually, when an automated phone call comes in, I immediately hang up. However, I didn't get a chance to stop this one in time. Happily. Because it was easily the most bizarre political call I've ever received.

The message concerned the state senate primary in two weeks for the California 28th district, a race between Jenny Oropeza and George Nakano. I'll admit ignorance -- I've never heard of either of them. Hey, I didn't even know I was in the 28th state senate district.

The automated call was from Ms. Oropeza's husband, describing a flyer from the Nakano campaign that criticized his wife because the family's children never attended public school.

I moved quickly to stop the message, painfully uninterested in a debate about what school a candidate's children go to. Fortunately I didn't reach the answering machine in time, because I would have missed the next sentence. And it was a classic:

"My wife and I do not have children."

Sometimes you want to thwack yourself in the head repeatedly to make sure it's not all just a bad dream. You don't, though, because with politics these days, that would make for a lot of bruised heads.

It turns out that the Nakano brochure was the "check list" kind that shows what one candidate has admirably done and the opponent despicably hasn't. In this case, an item was "Sent children to public school." The clear implication was that Ms. Oropeza had no commitment to public education. (It turns out that she served on the school board for six years.)

As Swift Boats go, this was more like a broken-down tug. It's as if they knew they're supposed to write something bad about their opponent, the way the big boys do, but hadn't learned the tricks yet. Like a seven-year-old trying to swear for the first time. It's wrong, it's bad, you know it will only get worse later in life if you don't stop it now but you can't help laughing. But that's local politics, where so much is bizarrely petty and childishly personal.

And of course, this race gets even more loco.

Browsing through George Nakano's website to check things out, it's appears perfectly ordinary. There's even a blog for the public to post on.

Ah, the magic word: the blog. That's where the amusement continues -- each "random comment" is clearly from inside supporters making campaign pronouncements. Fair enough. But then comes a posting from "Alisa¬_O."

Ms "O" writes a relentless, blistering, satiric rip of Oropeza, a full 12 paragraphs worth of non-stop surgical evisceration. Full-blown pummeling. And what was the subject worthy of such voluminous derision in this time of important issues?

A typo.

I swear. The word "corporate" was misspelled in one of Jenny Oropeza's TV spots.

Now, admittedly, this is a stupid goof. But just as admittedly -- it's a goof. And probably one made by an ad agency. Hardly up to Mission Accomplished in a flight suit.

But that's not what's humorous. It's when Ms. "O" writes, "Now that's got to be embarrassing. I'd be embarrassed if I misspelled a word in my blog."

And here's the thing: she does. Twice.

She writes, "And I'm sure there's tons more." Oh, if only. You see, "tons" is plural. It should be "there are tons more."

Then, the very next sentence begins, "Ok, ok. I'll play devil's advocate." And I will, too: the correct spelling is "OK." Or "O.K." or even "Okay." (Easy to forgive, except that she swaggers, "Lucky for me, I'm writing this blog in Microsoft Word, so if I spell anything wrong, Word underlines it in red for me, so I can fix it.") Alas, that's what comes from relying on a computer program to do your spelling, as opposed to, say, a dictionary. Or education.

Mind you, I understand that these are pointless typos. I make them all the timme. But when you go to such lengths to lambaste someone for a typo, here's a tip: you really want to get your own table impeccably clean. Especially if you want people to forget that whole "Their non-existent children go to private school" thing.

To be clear, none of any of this relates to who the better candidate is. I don't begin to know. And clearly, as I said, this is just a frivolous, insignificant local matter.

I only know that, as silly as this all is, it doesn't help the public discourse. On the national stage, people can only watch the missiles whiz past their ears, out of their control. At the local level, however, these are neighbors, and you want to grab people by the lapels and shake them silly, saying, "Come on, now, you can do better. Aspire to more. Do it for our fake children. And our fake children's fake children."