As polls open widely today, many voters are still searching for tools to help them decide. Are they going to vote their values? Identity politics? Single issue voting?
If you’re in that boat, allow us to pose an alternate way to consider your ballot: Are you going to vote like an asshole?
It’s a deliberately provocative question and if you just want to clutch your pearls and be outraged (which by default means the answer is ‘Yes’) then consider this your daily reason to spew bile on the Internet. However, hear us out on this as we explain why this is the platonic ideal of a question for our time.
Generalized assholery has been on the ascent for years and with Trumpism’s crystallization of the phenomena (the trademark disdain for reality, idolization of ignorance and insult-driven rhetoric) it’s now a bona fide election strategy at play in countless races.
Santa Monica has long been home to this kind of behavior, even pre-Trump, but this year’s manure harvest has been truly exceptional.
Councilwoman Lana Negrete has been subject to outright lies about her priorities, false accusations of criminal behavior and an insane accusation of endangering the President when he flew into SMO.
In the SMO case, Negrete was at the airport, under escort by SMPD when Biden landed. She wasn’t allowed to approach the president like Mayor Sue Himmelrich was, but she was on site. We spoke to the Secret Service who said no breach of security occurred and there was no investigation on their part into anyone or any behavior during Biden’s visit. However, that reality hasn’t stopped people from peddling asinine, ego-driven drivel about the situation.
On the other side of the political spectrum, there’s the truly pathetic display of school-yard bullying caught on video at last week’s Pico Farmers market. The video in question involves Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman bearing down on Santa Monica resident and attorney Joel Khoury while Khoury yells questions at Council candidate Armen Melkonians. Both sides tell different stories about what happened prior to the shown altercation. Neither has produced additional video so we’re left with a short clip of a Santa Monica city council candidate happy to hide behind a Malibu resident who stands to make millions if a newly constituted Council settles his lawsuit (Shenkman has previously sued the school district). It’s not a good look for anyone.
And this is where your voting preferences come to bear.
Are you voting to genuinely make life better here or are you trying to stick it to someone who won a past election?
Do you have a set of values that you want to see reflected in candidates or do you just want to vote for a candidate who will tell you you’re better than someone else?
Are you voting to empower those in need of help or to demonize people who disagree with you?
There’s a tale told around the Boomer campfires about the time when elections were less contentious, more civil and perhaps even aspirational. While there’s a kernel of truth that has been exaggerated into the Legend Of Better Times, the idea has become little more than a myth for younger generations who have come of age in times of increasingly toxic discourse. Decisions made from this Once-Upon-A-Time era might have been based on morals, values and the community good but it’s from the modern, venomous foundation that elections now draw their defining traits: hypocrisy, degradation, fear and the newest horseman, distrust.
How you choose to vote is entirely up to you. Whether you decide based on endorsements, party affiliation, tenacious research of candidate positions or just a sense that you like the cut of their jib, those are all your choices.
However, if you’re backing candidates who blatantly lie about their history, or voting to disenfranchise someone or ignoring obvious red flags for the sake of your ideology, you should consider how those decisions make you look in the eyes of your neighbors.
Unfortunately, the better angels abandoned our election system long ago at if we can’t be kind, if we won’t be good, we can at least try not to be an asshole about it.