There is one common safeguard in the nature of prudent man, which is a good security for all. What do I mean? Mistrust. Keep this, hold on to this; preserve this only, and you will never be injured.
-Demosthenes, to the Greeks
No endorsements for mayor this week.
Not from Ace. Not from the Herald-Leader.
That’s a break from tradition.
The last presidential election was not easy, but at the end of the day, we all held our noses and did our job.
This year’s mayoral race seems to have precipitated some sort of unique strike.
It would be irresponsible for any newspaper to suggest avoiding the polls, so we don’t.
While everyone’s going around quoting the Rolling Stones: “Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter. Endless parades of gray-suited grafters-a choice between cancer and polio,” a boycott of the process makes no statement beyond one of childishness and impotence.
An endorsement of apathy is an endorsement of sustained mediocrity.
And yet, despite the individual civic commitment and responsibility we might all feel, personally, to vote next Tuesday, to publicly endorse a candidate in this year’s mayoral race? Also irresponsible.
Now, is that bitterness talkin’?
In the primary, the city had in Jim Gray a mayoral candidate who ran for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones.
His campaign made some key strategic errors-none of which had the slightest thing to with his ability to run the city-but which, combined, lost him the chance.
Enough said. This isn’t his eulogy, and it isn’t meant to be (for one thing, everybody feels sure he’ll be back).
And it all got uglier after the primary.
Things that were common knowledge about both candidates from the day they announced they would run were cranked into public-friendly form, “leaked,” and then spit back out in ads (which is not surprising), and then by the press as if it was really “news” (which is an easy thing for any campaign to accomplish in a town where most media outlets pride themselves on a lack of institutional memory and few local roots-instead, functioning as training factory/mills for new grads hoping to gain enough experience to move to a “real” city-this phenomena is presented as bringing in “fresh” and “outside” perspectives, and it certainly isn’t unique to Lexington media; and it pervades and compromises coverage of any city issue).
So yeah, the candidates each bear a fair share of blame-but a lot of other people were certainly complicit if not outright guilty.
“Muckraking” is actually a fine, time-honored tradition, but Lexington has no Mencken. And nothing close.
So don’t let anybody kid you that the last few months of sow’s ears are now silk purses.
In The Stuff of Heroes, General William Cohen praises leadership and integrity, “The ultimate test of character is the willingness to do the right thing despite the costs and risks and to do it not with any expectation of approval or advantage, but simply because it is the right thing. In these cynical times, it’s easy to think such leadership is unattainable, yet in every community there are hundreds of men and women-parents, teachers, coaches, civic activists-who fit the mold. We should do a better job of finding and honoring them.”
He notes that real leaders often don’t depend on the power they get from their formal authority.
You’ll meet a few people like that in this Annual Power Issue. (You’ll meet more in the year-end edition, “This Year’s Models,” profiling model citizens.)
As for the election, the Herald-Leader concluded their mayoral non-endorsement with “We urge you to vote your conscience for the betterment of Lexington and pray that whoever wins turns out to be a better leader than our worst fears.” That’s worth repeating.
We can only add, as you approach the voting booth, that time-honored admonition that Puritanical mothers used to advise their bridal daughters about their forthcoming (assuredly unpleasant) conjugal duties, “close your eyes and think of England.”
Sorry we can’t do any better.
Kinky Friedman wrote, “everything’s been sold American, The lonely night is mourning for the death it never dies. Everyone’s been sold American,” and, at the end, just “don’t let me catch you laughing when the jukebox cries.”
It’s a dark, dark week here.