And so, our long regional nightmare is over, for a couple of years anyway: Sam Blakeslee is our state senator.
But before we leave this reprehensible state Senate campaign behind, I want to comment one last time on it.
Some of you will recall that a few weeks back, I wrote a column excoriating Republican Blakeslee and his Democratic opponent, John Laird, for their tactics.
You all saw the ads on television and in your mailbox: “Oil Man Sam” versus “He Taxed Us Like a Tidal Wave” Laird.
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I called for civility and honesty in campaigning, and many of those who wrote and called me after the column ran agreed. They concurred with me that this election will be remembered by Central Coast citizens for its venality more than anything else.
My column, it will surprise nobody to hear, had zero effect on the candidates.
Day after day my mailbox continued to groan with new and different attack ads.
Here was Blakeslee coming out against women being healthy. There was Laird driving old people to the grave with worry. Epithets flew, trees died to print them, and our system of government took it on the chin again and again.
As you may recall, neither of these gents thought his own ads did anything other than clarify the issues, although each considered the other’s scurrilous.
The election finally took place, and then came what was, for me, the kicker: After he won, Blakeslee had the shamelessness to immediately put out a press release calling his first-place finish “a victory for the grass roots.”
Beg pardon? You mean the gazillions of bucks spent on negative advertising, not to mention the hundreds of thousands collected from oil and insurance interests had nothing to do with the outcome? It was all “the little people”?
Right. And Rod Blagojevich didn’t try to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat, honest.
Our new state senator is either the most naïve man since the guy Jimmy Stewart played in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” or he is more jaded than Ambrose Bierce.
And spare me the “how come you’re going after Blakeslee and not Laird” stuff. Laird lost. Why waste ammo?
The real question may be, can you separate the candidate from his or her (I’m looking at you, Meg Whitman) campaign.
A little mea culpa and truth in advertising here. Long ago and far away, I managed a campaign for county supervisor. We came in second in a six-man field in the primary, then lost the general election.
After it was all over, I looked back on my own behavior — the things I said, the things I did. I did not recognize myself, and didn’t like what I saw. I learned plenty, about myself and about what the lust to win can do to a person.
Like so many people running for office in 2010, including Laird, Blakeslee ran an unprincipled, cynical and ultimately vile campaign. Does that mean he is vile? Not if you talk to the folks who know him. They consider him decent and affable.
Blakeslee was clearly being “handled” by political consultants and moneyed interests who couldn’t find San Luis Obispo on a map, and don’t care about your kid getting a decent education or your wife being able to afford a doctor’s visit.
But what does it mean to our democracy when a decent man runs an indecent campaign, and wins? Can he govern for all of us? Who is he, ultimately — the affable guy or the “tool of the interests”?
We’ll find out soon enough. What I fear is that nobody can “serve” us in any legislature in this nation without running the kind of slimy campaign we just slithered through here, and being beholden to anyone who can give him the cash to run one.
Looking forward, that simply can’t be good. At the end of that sinister road, all I can see is a billboard that says, “Hasta la vista, representative government.”
Prove me wrong, senator. Please.