Low politics, good times and fond memories | TheUnion.com

Low politics, good times and fond memories

The first effort by new columnist William Larsen last week was very well written; the theme dwelled on the importance of our shared core values and the dangers of creating dangerous factional belligerence over our differences. It’s a good message and I’m looking forward to many more thoughtful and well-written columns.

I view politics a little differently. Politicians and government in a democracy are inherently wasteful and corrupt. As Churchill said, it’s a lousy system until you consider the alternatives. For the system to work there must be constant reform. In our system, the reform is supposed to occur with periodic free elections.

Money and “special interests” have a somewhat corrupting effect on elections, but the alternative to government-sponsored elections would eventually suppress reform and lead to the end of our free democracy. So we impose term limits and constantly try to limit the excesses of money and “special interests,” to varying degrees of success.

Politics is a rough business and is not for the faint of heart. Political debate is often loud, angry and acrimonious as politicians try to sell the public on their pure motives and right thinking. Low politics or negative campaigning is usually carried out by hired third parties and tends to be of a personal nature, as opposed to dealing with the issues. Politicians are a hungry and ambitious group, as they should be. The competitive media has removed all restraints on what they will report about a public figure. For example, during the reign of the Kennedy brothers, the second most important mission of the secret service was to constantly locate high priced hookers for the brothers and their friends.

The media was well aware of this, but considered it “personal” and refused to disclose a word of it. Fast forward 40 years and we have an ugly impeachment proceeding against Clinton where the media served up the most minute details for an insatiable public feeding.

I would like to see serious, public, intellectual debate on the issues as the primary method of choosing our leaders. However, as long as there is money and power involved, expect lies, negativity, and personal weaknesses to be exploited – it’s the American way.

At the state and federal level, it seems more and more the case that the talents needed to get elected have little to do with actually doing the job once elected. That’s why we have such unimaginative and poll-driven leadership. As unfair and ugly as it can become, it is in the end better than any alternative. Lincoln said it best: “You can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time but never all the people all the time.”

Turning to another subject, I was very disappointed to read that Izzy Martin had rejected Marguerite Leipzig as a continuing 10-year member of the Sanitation Commission. In another life and place many years ago, I lived and operated a business in Redwood City (home and headquarters of the SF 49ers).

Marguerite was the mayor of that fine town, was well liked and had an exemplary public record. Years later she served with distinction on the Lake Wildwood board of directors and chaired that board. Her service to Lake Wildwood was also exemplary. She is a talented public servant who knows how the represent her constituents’ needs while reining in government costs. To see this highly qualified and experienced public servant rejected for political reasons is a real loss for Lake Wildwood and all residents of the 4th District.

Speaking of that past life, many years ago I started a business in Redwood City that I called “Barney’s Bar and Grill.” I had about 20 employees and business boomed for many years. I had a great lunch business and a regular dinner crowd, and live music of all genres six nights a week (different band every night). It was the “happening place” for over 15 years.

I was a lifetime SF 49er fan and when they made my place their eating and drinking “homestead,” I was in groupie heaven. I always had 50-yard line seats and barbecued for the players, wives and girlfriends at the players’ parking lot. Montana had a ritual where he came in every Wednesday and bought the offensive line all they could eat and drink as thanks for protecting him that week.

Believe me, these big boys could put it away. The Super Bowl of 1981 was an event that turned that town upside down. Eventually they moved to Santa Clara, but I made many wonderful friendships with those early ’80s teams – so many stories to tell. Also, eventually the bar and restaurant business wore me out and I moved on to another life. Many, many good times and fond memories down there in Redwood City.

Michael Schwalm, a resident of Penn Valley, writes a monthly column.

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