EDUCATION POLITICS-Why do we let Nick Melvoin’s words bounce off him and stick to LAUSD’s world? Negative Ads Undermine Democracy. Mostly, the fourth district school board race has been one of incessant negativity and lies. Why do we permit this uncivilized behavior?
I can tell you that, walking my neighborhood, I am met with deep weariness, wariness and hostility. This is the legacy of democracy abused. This race has been nothing if not about Big Lies and electoral abuse, and that’s a lesson being bought – and paid for – dearly.
Independent Committee expenditures (IECs, the new normal for “PAC”s) in favor of both candidates have been about the same, averaging $1.8 million dollars at the moment. Each. You read that right. Think of the children. (Think of the printers.)
What is not similar is IC expenditures in opposition to their candidate. Melvoin’s IC devotes half an order of magnitude more in slandering Steve Zimmer than Zimmer’s IC spends to oppose Melvoin.
Thus, quite apart from the overall total spent (which is obscene), a dramatic distinction between candidates is evident from what’s being spent to smear the other guy. Zimmer’s adherents spent less than 25% of that average in denigrating their opposition ($441K). Melvoin’s buddies sunk 140% of that average spent in support of their candidate ($2.4 million) on negative ads.
In fact, the amount Zimmer’s IEC devoted to negative campaigning is so comparatively trivial, the negligible difference between both campaign’s positive expenditures, which is just 6% – this sum ($114K) is 25% of what Zimmer’s camp spent in negativity altogether. His challenger spent five and a half times as much as the incumbent in stuffing our mailboxes with scurrilous lies.
So the current overall total of IECs is $6.4 million, and the electorate has responded with a resounding, “Beat It.”
The blowback to our electoral democracy is fierce. When I try to speak with my own neighbors with whom I have worked side-by-side for over twenty years improving their neighborhood, my neighborhood, everyone’s lives, their doors stay shut. They make clear they are fortressed against hearing anything “political.”
What they have absorbed are buzz words: “bad,” “failing,” “violent,” “drop-out,” “waste,” “fraud,” “scandal” – and on and on and on.
What they have forgotten is that their littlest neighbors, my children, are part of that system being smeared. And I volunteer within that system improving it just like I work to improve our neighborhoods.
My children are NOT bad, failures, violent, drop-outs, wasteful, fraudulent or scandalous. My children actually reflect wonderfully on those self-same neighbors, and likewise upon the school system, the schools and the teachers who taught them. One attends the most selective school in the country, the other strives to follow in those footsteps. We are all working tirelessly to bring our community up and forward its betterment. LAUSD has supported my children even as our family contributes to improve it. This is what democracy looks like and its integrity needs safeguarding from lassitude and confusion.
Because that is the outcome when candidates shred their opposition and tear down community. They wound us all with their messages of negativity and hopelessness: it sticks. What’s conveyed is deep and unsettling: don’t try to pretend things are good here, that you can better your lot, that you can effect it or counter us. Reality and facts are immaterial. If you dare to counter the message, you will be buried in an avalanche of Big Lies, marginalized, and transformed into a puddle of electoral glue coated in an onslaught of slander we the people are too traumatized to withstand through reason or thought.
This is what is Trumpian about the might of the California Charter Schools Association’s money and power in this battle for the school board. Intimidation, slander and ultimate electoral paralysis. They strive to overwhelm us with false equivalence such that even the stark consequence of ideological differences so riven as represented by these candidates, is obscured.
Please do not let all this money win your single democratic voice. You must turn out to the polls in order to use it. This is the one and only way to assert Resistance. Then, give Steve Zimmer your vote.
(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.com) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.