Once upon a time, there was a bad man. Not evil, but very vain and who only worked in the best interest of himself. He was president of a home owner’s association because no one ever ran against him and the majority of owners did not vote in the elections.
Even though lots of people hated him, they still didn’t vote –so it didn’t matter. They just felt like bitching about him and the vice president to the lady who worked in the office. This is the fault of the residents for not wanting to be part of their very local government.
The man was actually a terrible manager. He was not good at what he did, but he was a salesman, so he told people just how great he was and they believed him. He fired people who were good for the organization, he employed wasteful measures, and did not listen to the staff when they told him what would make things better. He just did what he thought was best, even though he was wrong most of the time. He made last minute decisions and problems that would throw the staff into chaos and they would have to fix his mistakes and handle emergencies that he caused. The HOA had a staff turn over of sixty six-percent every year and eighty three-percent every two years. That’s four out of six employees getting fired or quitting each year.
This man was all around a bad leader. He made it a fine-able offense to speak badly about board members to staff and under a vague harassment policy it was possible for you to be banned from serving on the board or committees because you were in “bad standing with the HOA”. What it really meant was that he and the vice president didn’t like you or want you to challenge them.
Knowing all of this, wouldn’t you want this man to not serve in public office? Certainly not! He sounds like a tyrant!
Well, by “serving” as HOA President he was actually working on a pretty tidy resume. As long as he could tell people with a smile about all the years he was an HOA President for a large condominium complex and how much better he made it for the residents and owners and point to a few marginal improvements he’d made, then it didn’t matter!
So the bad man waited until his resume looked good enough and he had profited long enough off of the accomplishments of the HOA staff (who were the ones actually making things better) and then he ran for city council. Conveniently, a member was stepping down and he ran unopposed. Once on city council, he pulled all the same crap, but no one ever voted against him because it was comfortable or because no one stepped up to run against him. Meanwhile he was building his resume and benefiting from the hard work of the city’s workers.
From there his resume looked even better and so he ran for the House of Representatives! It was a smaller district with low voter turn out and some people voted for him just because they recognized his name. Each time he came up for re-election it was easy! So by the time he ran for Senator in his state he had quite an impressive number of terms under his belt. He was very good at selling other’s accomplishments as his own.
In all this time he had only grown more vain and more self-serving. He added things to legislative bills in exchange for favors, he attended fancy dinners with lobbyists, his children went to a private school where key party members’ children went to school, his wife went to brunch with members of special interest groups, and he belonged to a golf club owned by a generous campaign supporter. The man did everything he could to get ahead.
When his hair had turned grey and his ego was as impenetrable as his conflicts of interest, he decided the time had come for him to run for President of the United States. His resume was extensive and his name was loosely attached to many pieces of legislation that he had done little actual work on, but no one really needed to know that. He was a very good salesman. He had already sold himself to his city and his state and they bought it hook, line, and sinker. The wake of mismanagement and bad judgement and negligence didn’t matter. No one ever showed up to vote him out of office.
When he proved how terrible he actually was because he made a fool of himself running for President, his state was embarrassed and the rest of America just shook its head and said, “Why can’t we have any good options?”
To that I say, it’s us. We are the reason we can’t have any good options. Because we don’t vote, we don’t run for office, we don’t speak up. We let whatever asshole wants to do the job step up and take it for whatever selfish reason he or she has. We keep waiting for some perfect presidential candidate but we let the bad HOA presidents shimmy up the political ladder without stopping them. We let people like Roy Blunt, a senator from Missouri, sit in congress for twenty years just wrecking stuff. That’s Missouri’s fault. But all the other bad ones? It’s our fault.
Local elections matter. They affect your immediate life more than the presidential election ever could. I’ve known people who almost lost their houses because of fines from HOA violations and when I worked in property management I learned that HOAs can put a lien on your home for fines they have assessed against you.Then the city decides even more matters, like in Albuquerque, they decided to tear up a bunch of historic Route 66 and subsequently put a bunch of small businesses at risk and annoy motorists to no end.
The States were the ones who set up marketplaces for the Affordable Care Act, which is why in Oklahoma a person living under the poverty line had a $13,000 deductible before co-pays kicked in and a $150 monthly premium while in New Mexico the same person had a $4000 deducible and co-pays before their deductible was met – both with ObamaCare.
We need to vote. We need to get organized and get active. I am seeing it more and more, but what really bothers me is that it took Donald Trump getting elected for people to give a shit. It took an orange Cheeto presumably taking a practical joke too far for us all to even notice the wreckage of the current state of our political affairs. It’s like we all looked up from our phones and collectively said, “Well, fuck.”
We need to start paying more attention. Voting locally and acting locally will and can make a difference. Until we can all do that, we will be the reason we can’t have nice things.