Friends and Politics

Matt Davis attempts to give a justification for the current storm surrounding Rep. Roy Schmidt’s last minute switch of parties. The media has been intense, fueled by a report by from the county prosecutor. Davis’ point appears to be that some one else could have also run, but because no one did, what Schmidt did was permissible, at least in hard nosed political sort of way.

So, Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger tried to get someone to run for office. Judging from Kent County Prosecutor William A. Forsyth’s epistle, you would think that their effort was the precursor to Western civilization falling on its ear.
We deserve the government we get because we choose who represents us, regardless of how a candidate (legally) gets on the ballot. So what about recruiting people to run?

Now I can appreciate the hard-nosed truth. It would work except for one minor point: Roy screwed it up. If you’re going to do a dirty trick, you at least have to execute. Roy didn’t.

Underneath this there is a more significant question: representatives actually represent people (not simply corporations). Elected officials of all sorts necessarily build a strong network of others who support, encourage, and give of their time and money. Schmidt’s final crime was not electoral, but moral: running away from his friends without telling them.  Had he told them when he decided to switch, or had done so even earlier in April — few would have begrudged him, complain, yes, but there would have been understanding.

After all,  Roy was considered an adequate representative. He gave up that sense of adequacy in the  manner of the switch, by its timing and in the provision of a dummy alternative. He was treating the office like it was something owed, not as if it were a privilege given to him by his neighbors. Having surrendered his moral claim, then not surprisingly other voices have come forward: Bing Goei for the Republicans, Winnie Brinks for the Democrats, and even Keith Allard independent.

Politics is not a magical, frictionless activity no matter what they taught you in Civics class. It’s something that takes time, discipline, planning and the help of your friends. When Roy forgot his friends he got into trouble; without a network of friends running for office cannot really be done — something that I’m sure even Mr Davis understands.

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