Growing up through the Bush and Obama years, politics were always contentious. Until 2016 though, I never fully appreciated just how ugly and bizarre things could get. One could call me naive, but frankly I never expected that nearly half of a Republican nominee’s voters would believe—with zero evidence—that the Democratic nominee for President ran a child sex ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor that didn’t even have a basement. And, aside from the rise of conspiracy theories, I didn’t expect the discourse of a major political party to devolve to the level of “[insert Sleepy Joe/Crooked Hillary] and the Democrats want to destroy America.” Even as I was forced to swallow that new national political reality, as a proud Santa Monican I at least clung to the hope that such juvenile disdain for truth and decency would not overrun my progressive hometown.

Now that was naive. At this point, I should say that my mother is SMMUSD Boardmember Laurie Lieberman. I can speak firsthand to the seemingly endless, uncompensated hours she spends working her tail off to improve our schools for each and every kid in this district. I can also speak firsthand to the disgusting, Trumpian, QAnon-esque allegations that a handful of perpetually aggrieved individuals have hurled at my mother, her colleagues, and my family in recent months. I won’t waste anyone’s time or brain cells by detailing each allegation, but my personal favorite is the notion that my mom ran for School Board for the purpose of pursuing grandiose construction/real estate deals to benefit my dad’s law firm. There is quite literally not even a speck of truth to this claim. At its core, it’s a conspiracy theory alleging that a female public official only ran for office to do her husband’s financial bidding. It’s sexist garbage, full stop. Again, it’s also demonstrably false.

Here are some relevant facts. I am a third-generation Samohi graduate. My grandfather was student body president back in the ‘40s. My mom’s mom was a professor of education at Columbia and Stanford, my mom’s sister is a history professor, and my sister is a third-grade public school teacher. My mom has been a dedicated public servant in Santa Monica for decades. Someone with an ounce of interest in the truth might have inquired into my mom’s background—in particular how deeply education, especially public education in Santa Monica, is ingrained within her values—before launching a baseless, pathetic character assassination campaign premised on an irrational personal vendetta against a good person.

The recall proponents’ tactics are simply a local manifestation of troubling national trends toward a politics of anger, dishonesty, and presumption of worst intentions. No public servant or member of the public deserves to be subjected to these reprehensible smear tactics in Santa Monica.

Please stand up to oppose the SMMUSD recall and encourage your friends and family to do the same. As Vice President Kamala Harris stressed ad nauseam in 2020, “we are better than this.”

Peter Harding