Political Fix (20 October, 2016)

The Undecided Voter

In the late afternoon of October 5 I sat on the edge of my bed wondering if I wanted to attend one more boring forum. I debated whether anyone would even want to read an article about it. The forum was for Tulare County Supervisor District 1 between Kuyler Crocker and Dennis Smith: one Republican man debating another Republican man over water, public safety and economic development. Blah, blah blah…

My daughter’s boyfriend, Brendon Alexander, is a political junkie and it was only his enthusiasm that got my rear end out of the house and to the forum. Mr. Alexander was an undecided voter and wanted to go to the forum so he could decide for whom to vote. I thought, if he is undecided then there are many others, so I should roll up my sleeves and write an article on their differences.

That’s when I realized the race was more interesting than I had thought.

The most obvious difference is their age and experience. Mr. Smith pointed out during the forum that when he was Mr. Crocker’s age he had already been running his own business for two years. At 64, Mr. Smith is nearing retirement and is married with two grown daughters.

Mr. Crocker, on the other hand, has not had the joys of raising a family, but his youth is seen by others as giving him a more flexible demeanor and openness. John Elliot, editor of the Kaweah Commonwealth and former Tulare County Supervisor candidate, endorsed Mr. Crocker and believes that “Mr. Crocker will move us forward.” He described Mr. Crocker as a “man with the infectious smile, quick wit, and a generous helping of youthful enthusiasm.”

Former Exeter Mayor Ted McCauley said he supports Mr. Crocker because he would work well with the other supervisors. Mr. McCauley feels that Mr. Smith’s rhetoric about how the government is after our property rights and our water rights is way off base, and that Mr. Crocker is more in tune with mainstream voters and with what is going on in Tulare County.

This leads us to the subject of official endorsements. Mr. Crocker also has the endorsements of the Deputy Sheriffs Association, Tulare County Firefighters, and former Tulare County Sheriff Bill Whitman. And, of course, of Supervisor Allen Ishida–who grew up in the same town, graduated from the same high school, and also comes from a farming family. From the beginning Mr. Crocker was seen as the heir apparent to Supervisor Ishida’s seat at the dais.

So where has the Republican establishment been hiding?

Though Mr. Smith and Congressman Devin Nunes have always been on friendly terms, Mr. Smith leads the Central Valley Tea Party, an organization that on the national front has caused Mr. Nunes much grief, such as when they proudly shut down the government for two weeks in 2013.

Our congressman is never going to endorse someone from the Tea Party, and Mr. Smith is not expecting him to. But I have to say a lot of us were waiting around for the establishment to endorse Mr. Crocker–and it never happened.

I wonder if Mr. Crocker was waiting, too.

Mr. Smith has not solicited the big endorsements but has concentrated on a traditional grassroots campaign. I met one constituent who voted for Mr. Smith in the primary solely because he received a personal postcard signed by the candidate asking for his vote.

While most people thought Mr. Smith would land at the bottom of the pack in the primary, he in fact won the most votes through good old fashioned hard work.

Mr. Smith has one endorsement, from former Tulare County Supervisor candidate Angel Galvez. Mr. Galvez is a longtime upper management employee of the Tulare County Health and Human Services (HSSA).

I find Mr. Smith and Mr. Galvez quite the odd couple. Mr. Smith might have been the first candidate in Tulare County history to bring up the Agenda 21 conspiracy during a forum. As for Mr. Galvez, he is the first one to ever say Tulare County leaders need to support the LGBTQ community.

I asked Mr. Galvez, who is not a Republican, why he endorses Mr. Smith. He said, “Mr. Smith has an excellent understanding of the county’s fiscal projections, government regulations, and policy, and that spoke volumes to me. He also has a really good understanding of economic development and that’s what Tulare County needs right now.”

They met several times because Mr. Smith wanted to learn from Mr. Galvez how efficiently HHSA ran. Mr. Galvez said that Mr. Smith’s priority was worker productivity within such a large agency. Mr. Smith wanted to find out if the county was getting what it was paying for in terms of hours worked. Mr. Galvez said that in years past HHSA looked into that exact problem and found that productivity was very bad. HHSA has since taken remedies to fix the problem.

I asked Mr. Galvez if he thought a conservative Republican would be able to protect the rights of the LGBTQ community. He said that Mr. Smith is more Libertarian than Republican, which makes him “live and let live.”

“What about his belief in a right-wing conspiracy?” I asked. He said that Mr. Smith is just concerned that some elements of Agenda 21 don’t happen here in Tulare County.

Looking at each candidate’s campaign finance reveals another big difference. Mr. Smith is neither soliciting big endorsements nor big donations. He has raised around $16,000, from mostly friends.

Mr. Crocker, conversely, has raised $81,000. He has received donations from his friends, too, but the largest donations have come from major developers in the Central Valley. One major Fresno developer, who has his sites on Tulare County, gave $14,000 to Mr. Crocker’s campaign.

What about the future?

Mr. Smith will probably serve three terms, get his retirement and health benefits, and step away from the dais.

Mr. Crocker is too young to stop at supervisor and will most likely use it as a stepping stone to higher office. If he is any good at holding public office, maybe we will be seeing Supervisor Pete Vander Poel and Supervisor Kuyler Crocker duel it out for the 26th State Assembly District in about 10 years.

As for the undecided voter, Mr. Alexander? He left the forum carrying a Dennis Smith yard sign and promptly stuck it in his lawn right next to his yard sign for Congressman Devin Nunes.

What is Agenda 21?

I think I was in college when I first realized that as one goes further to the left they soon run into the extreme right. That kind of blew me away. The concept of conservative or liberal was always presented to me as being on one end of the political spectrum or the other. Not as being a circle, which is what it really is.

Common wisdom says that communism is the ideology of the ultra left and fascism is the ideology of the ultra right. On paper they are different. But in practice the two extremes come together.

Both communism and fascism grew out workers’ parties. The Russian Social Democratic Labor Party started in 1912 and led to the Bolsheviks. Then, in 1920, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party was the beginning of the Nazis. As their movements grew and took over their respective countries, nationalism, dictators, and militarism all became central tenets of communism and fascism, and individual expression and freedoms went out the window.

Thirty years later, did I retain this important lesson about how the extremes meet in the middle? No, I did not.

I heard about the Agenda 21 conspiracy in the early 2000’s and branded it as part of the extreme right. Then came along Rosa Koire, who wrote the book Behind the Green Mask, which is now a manifesto of sorts for those who believe in the conspiracy. She has been a Northern California Democrat her entire life. She is anti-war, gay, and a feminist.

She says that Agenda 21 is “the action plan to inventory and control all human beings and resources on the planet.”

In reality, Agenda 21 is a United Nations advisory document adopted in 1992 by 178 nations, including the United States. The plan gives an outline on how to build sustainable living, shopping, and working developments and reduce global poverty. It was a product of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and was named for the coming of the 21st Century.

Conspiracy theorists, on the other hand, believe that the United Nations doctrine Agenda 21 is just a veiled attempt at global domination that will lead to the complete loss of individual rights. When Mr. Smith complains about the state and federal water laws that have fallowed agriculture land in the Westlands Water District, he believes it is Agenda 21 at work trying to depopulate large swaths of the Central Valley.

But is it true? I almost don’t care.

I do know that a few seemingly very liberal pot heads are some of the most of the most conservative people I know, and that our conservative Republican presidential nominee says he is “leading a populist movement fighting to upend radical globalization and the disenfranchisement of the working people.”

So where does that leave Mr. Smith–as a reactionary conservative or a liberal Democrat? I guess that depends on whether you live in Northern California or Tulare County.

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