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Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Oct. 3, 2023

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Jayne: It’s hard to see the humor in strident political agendas

By , Columbian Opinion Page Editor

There is an old stand-up comedy routine — so old that I can’t even find it on the Internet — that has come to mind recently. Given its political, cynical, caustic nature, it must have been a George Carlin diatribe, and I remember seeing it many, many years ago.

So yeah, it’s old. But, funnily enough, it was prescient.

Carlin, or whoever the comedian was, got to talking about how somebody, an individual, a free thinker, comes up with a great idea and sets about to change the world. They get a couple friends to agree with them, who add their own ideas that actually water down the brilliance, and eventually there’s a whole group of people banding together and instead of an idea, they develop an agenda. And when people develop agendas, then everything goes to hell.

Trust me, it was funny. I’m just not using my funny voice.

Anyway, the point is that the latest machinations of the political parties in Clark County have reminded me of this long-ago comedy. Because when a group of people develop an agenda, then the agenda becomes all important at the expense of actually governing for the good of the community.

Take the Clark County Republican Party. First, they decided to oppose the Clark County charter that was on the ballot last year. No problem there; they are entitled to their opinion. But the charter passed, which has led to the election of a county chair this year. When three Republican county councilors entered the race for the chair position, they split the vote and none of them reached the two-person general election.

So, now the local GOP is supporting state Rep. Liz Pike as a write-in candidate, even though she says she won’t campaign for the job. And that has led yet another group of Republicans to band together and support Marc Boldt, a former Republican who is running as an independent and actually is on the ballot.

Differences of opinion

Now, there’s nothing wrong with like-minded people getting together and becoming politically involved. That’s the way elections work. But it seems as though American politics have become so beholden to so-called purity tests for candidates that there is no room for gray areas or differences of opinions — and the price for such stridency comes at the expense of good governance.

Lest we think this is solely a Republican problem, the Clark County Democrats are here to remind us otherwise. The county party recently had a kerfuffle because the Young Democrats of Clark County endorsed Boldt prior to the primary. That turned problematic when Democrat Mike Dalesandro advanced to the general election against Boldt.

The party reached a compromise to prevent the Young Democrats from using party resources to support Boldt, with chairwoman Deanna Pauli-Hammond saying, “Our donors don’t want them using our resources to support a candidate that we don’t support … We’ve had donors calling and threatening to pull their donations.”

We could write a master’s thesis about the problems with a political system that is beholden to donors. You know, the kind of people who purchase political power in order to advance their agenda. But instead we’ll condense it to something in a report last year from the Pew Research Center: “There’s no evidence from decades of Pew Research surveys that public opinion, in the aggregate, is more extreme now than in the past. But what has changed — and pretty dramatically — is the growing tendency of people to sort themselves … based on their ideological differences.” The research found that Americans are more prone than ever to divide themselves based on ideology and, in turn, to shun, ignore, and demonize those who disagree with them.

The losers in all this are the people. You, me, the hairdresser down the street — the people who are more concerned with a well-functioning community than any specific political agenda. Because when a political idea devolves into an agenda, it’s no laughing matter.