Vicious circle

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 19, 2004

Politics is similar to stock car racing – contestants travel in a seemingly endless circle to find victory, all the while making every attempt to steer clear of trouble.

That’s not to mention the similarity between pit bosses and political campaign strategists, each famous for tweaking the rules to the advantage of their respective driver/candidate.

These two professions also bear a striking resemblance in personal behavior patterns.

At a stock car race, driver &uot;A&uot; will put driver &uot;B&uot; in the wall. Driver &uot;B&uot; will then spend the next week badmouthing his arch rival, eventually leading to an ugly altercation on the track at the next race.

In politics, the brain trust behind candidate &uot;A&uot; will find some unsavory morsel concerning candidate &uot;B&uot; and release a slew of negative advertising. To counter, the campaign officials of candidate &uot;B&uot; will launch an immediate defense while digging for dirt to release on candidate &uot;A.&uot;

It’s a vicious circle, thus the similarity between racing to the checkered flag and racing to gain political power.

The point I’m getting to is let an election draw near and watch the sparks begin to fly. I can’t recall an election year passing by without some accusation concerning a particular candidate or candidates. It seems that the quest for an elected position tends to bring out the worst in people – mind you, not just the candidates and their respective campaign workers, but the voters as well.

Ever since I was just a production apprentice in the newspaper industry (back in 1972), I’ve heard plenty of horror stories regarding political cheating and voter fraud. It’s no wonder the majority of Americans do not trust the political process.

Nothing much has changed over the past 32 years. Here we are on Primary Day in North Carolina and the political mudslinging continues, perhaps worse than it was when I was a na¨ve young newspaper production employee.

Every election year, one candidate will accuse another over shady political practices. The most popular accusations include vote buying, campaign volunteers providing voter transportation to and from the polls (often throwing in a free meal for good measure), and non-profit groups providing detailed instructions to voters on which candidate(s) they should choose.

Two years ago, I received a phone call from a man, crying his eyes out, claiming he felt so guilty after accepting money from a family member of one particular candidate in exchange for finding older registered voters, transporting them to the polls and then showing them who to vote for. He claimed he did this at several polling places in a particular county and was rewarded handsomely for his efforts.

I checked with the elections director in that county and nothing was documented.

Recently, the Daily Dispatch in Henderson (Vance County) ran a story about voting problems in Warren County. There, the voter history file of a man was studied. It showed activity as late as of May of this year. The catch was this man died in 1998.

It’s these types of things that cast a shadow on our political process. As Americans, we have the freedom to choose our leaders. We cast a ballot for a particular candidate because they have shown during the campaign that they share the same political beliefs as we – liberal, conservative or middle-of-the-road.

What deflates our trust in politics is after we have helped to elect a certain candidate, they go off in a totally different direction upon reaching the county seat, the state capitol or Washington, D.C.

It’s all a political power process after being elected. Your hopes and dreams of trying to make a difference for those that placed you in this authoritative position comes crashing back down to earth just as quickly after meeting your first lobbyist. Their pockets are lined with more money than even your largest contributor back on the home front. By swaying your vote on a particular issue – one that will mean millions, perhaps billions, for those they represent – these lobbyists prove as a financial means to ensure your reelection.

And the political merry-go-round, much like those weekend warriors on an oval-shaped hunk of asphalt, continues to evolve.

Come to think about it, the guy who felt so guilty about accepting money to take uninformed voters to the polls and vote the conscience of the person providing the money is no worse of a person than a politician who accepts a lobbyist handout and then votes against the principles and the beliefs that got him or her elected in the first place.

That scenario will not prevent me from going to the Ahoskie Armory today and casting my ballot. I’ve studied each candidate and have made-up my mind. My only wish is if I do back a winner, he or she will have enough guts to drive their political bandwagon off the never-ending circle and lead us down a new path, one uncluttered of corruption.