Public has opportunity to call officials to account
In The Federalist No. 52, either Alexander Hamilton or James Madison (the identity of the author is unclear) wrote, “As it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured.” Although this exposition is addressing the creation of a congress, the principle is germane to elections in general.
Implicit in the above commentary is the idea that elections not only secure a common interest, they offer also an opportunity to call incumbent officials to account for any breach of that interest or of the public trust, and to elect others in their places if necessary or desirable. The common interest transcends special interests or narrow political agendas that favor “the few” at the expense of “the many.” The founders were not so naïve to believe that special interests or factions would not try to influence the actions of the elected. They envisioned the election of enlightened, trustworthy leaders as one method of reducing such influence.
In approximately six weeks, we in Nevada County have an opportunity to call to account a variety of officials at the state and local levels. It should come as no surprise that accountability is the aspect of the political process for which politicians have the least amount of enthusiasm. Most politicians would rather conform to the Fifth Law of Thermodynamics that states, “Heat applied to someone else is heat not applied to me.”
As a result, we have a real stew on our hands. There’s a faux candidate who was the root cause of a fistfight, evidently because there’s no part of “no” that he understands. We have the Rural Quality Coalition’s chief apologist for its leftist and left-leaning functionaries on the Board of Supervisors spewing, to wretched excess, the same old misleading nonsense: The challengers in the election are extremists and their election will ensure an end to life as we know it. If you don’t practice the absolutist policies as defined by the RQC, you’re an extremist. Please! We have also plenty of offensive letters to the editor of this paper containing baseless personal attacks, framed in irresponsible language – the Fifth Law in action. Character assassination seems to be the quintessential political act in Nevada County.
The ground truth of the election of supervisors is that the incumbent candidates had as their centerpiece an initiative that was the biggest public policy disaster in recent memory in Nevada County. They lost the trust and confidence of much of the electorate in the process, and now are scrambling for cover to avoid accountability. These staunch “environmentalists” have clear-cut a swath of deep division in the body politic, thereby eroding the community spirit and polluting the atmosphere of civility. The damage they have caused will go unrepaired as long as they are in office. So much for the common interest.
Following along in the wake this disaster is Measure D, the property rights initiative. If you don’t like Measure D, you can thank Bruce Conklin, Elizabeth Martin, and Peter Van Zant – they are as responsible for it as surely as if they wrote it.
This election is not between “big developers” and opportunistic landscape architects. It’s about some of our public officials’ inability or unwillingness to tend to the common good and their advancement of the interests of “the few” at the expense of “the many.”
Someone once said that in a democracy people get what they deserve. I don’t agree with that, but I do believe we get what we are willing to put up with. We have an opportunity to make a change and replace sophistry and pretension with people who are truly representative of a broad consensus. I’ll take inexperience and hope over arrogance and disappointment every time. You can decide for yourself what you’re willing to put up with.
Nate Beason was a naval officer for 30 years. He lives in Nevada City and writes a monthly column.
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