I want to talk politics. First and foremost, I am by no means a political pundit, but I do consider myself observant. As a reporter, I believe that I notice things that others may sometimes overlook.
I recently received an email from candidate for the 11th Congressional District Cecil Bothwell's campaign. The email featured a side by side comparison of his primary challenger Hayden Rogers.
In my opinion, almost every point of distinction Mr. Bothwell attempted to give to separate himself from Mr. Rogers is a complete fabrication. I fully understand that from local to Presidential, a part of the election process is to “expose” the opponent. It doesn’t just apply in politics, but in all competitions, and while I can fully appreciate the strategy of identifying the weakness of a challenger, I believe it should be done truthfully, and with a little bit of dignity, aspects of the process Mr. Bothwell seems to ignore.
While I would love to argue every delusive “fact” in the email, I will touch on a few highlights. The first “fact” was Mr. Bothwell's assertion of Mr. Rogers' stance on Medicare and Social Security, which states: “Told Dems in Haywood they are both on the table.”
What does that mean to say they are on the table? I believe that Mr. Bothwell was attempting to make voters think that those programs that are the life blood of so many Americans, are at risk of being cut. Well, realistically they are. Those programs are on the table, but not because Mr. Rogers put them there, but because that is what is already being argued in Congress. Mr. Bothwell failed to mention that while in Macon County, Mr. Rogers stated he would “fight to protect and save both Medicare and Social Security with every fiber of his being.”
Mr. Bothwell continues his attempt to compare his politics to his opponent's by explaining how the two differ in “the democratic process.” Mr. Bothwell states that out of five debates, Mr. Rogers only participated in one. Since Mr. Rogers didn’t decide to run for Congress until after the current member of Congress decided to retire, he had only a few weeks to get his campaign going. Mr. Rogers began focusing on getting out and meeting the residents of the 11th District. His campaign immediately scheduled meetings with organizations in each of the 15 counties in the District. He met with the Coon Hunter's association in Macon, the Democratic Women's Club in Haywood, had fundraising events in Murphy, and meetings with members of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. His schedule quickly filled up and he found himself having scheduling conflicts with some of the debates. So yes, he missed a Transylvania County debate, but he had a prior commitment to attend an event in Macon County.
Mr. Bothwell's next point struck a nerve with me personally. Mr. Bothwell claimed that Mr. Rogers, “Doesn't return reporters' phone calls.” I can't speak for every reporter, but as a member of the Fourth Estate, I haven't had any problem getting in contact with Mr. Rogers. In fact, after first meeting Mr. Rogers, he took out a business card and wrote down two email addresses and his personal cell phone number for me and told me if I ever needed anything not to hesitate to contact him.
Mr. Rogers has made a valiant effort to make himself available to me as a member of the media and to residents throughout the district for whatever reason they may need. Mr. Rogers has gone above and beyond the requirements of “the democratic process” in the sense that he does not just reach out to voters who attend various Town Hall meetings, but he wakes up early on Saturday morning to spend his day with a group of children with disabilities who got to go turkey hunting for the first time. He has toured businesses and schools throughout the District because I believe that the people he strives to represents are important to him and that he wants to work for his neighbors in the 11th District, regardless of their political affiliation. Because despite what political party one may belong to, while in Congress, it would be Mr. Rogers’ responsibility to represent each resident in his district, a charge I feel he gladly accepts and does so with honor because of a sincere dedication to service, not for the prestige of the title assumed when taking the position.
I must commend Mr. Bothwell on is his account of Mr. Rogers’ “political biography.” Although I am almost certain that Mr. Bothwell intended it to be negative, he does fairly note that Mr. Rogers understands the inner workings of Congress and Washington after spending five years as Chief of Staff for Cong. Heath Shuler.
Just for fun, let’s use a Tarheel basketball analogy for this one. Who do you put in your starting lineup against the Blue Devils? Do you start your freshman point guard, or do you start Kendall Marshall, a proven player who knows his opponent inside and out, can anticipate his next move and can adjust his game-plan accordingly. A freshman player doesn’t have time to familiarize himself with the game or his opponent and by the time he does, the final buzzer goes off and you’re back in the locker room with a loss.
The same is true for politics. Mr. Rogers is the veteran player that the 11th District needs to send to Congress. He knows what he is up against. He knows when he needs to post up and stand his ground or when to take a charge. His experience is invaluable.
One might argue that during this past season, freshmen guard Stillman White did exceptionally well when put into the game after Marshall suffered an injury. But ultimately, he caved under pressure. White may have had the heart and dedication it takes to be a Tarheel, just as Mr. Bothwell has to become a member of Congress, but in the end, White lacked the experience the game requires.
My final objection to Mr. Bothwell's email is his half-hearted attack on Mr. Rogers' campaign contributions. Mr. Bothwell has taken a stand to build a grassroots campaign and refuses to take monetary donations from any corporate PACs. That is certainly ambitious, but let’s be honest. While we would all like to pretend that money doesn't win elections, history tells us differently.
Mr. Bothwell even stated that the reason he decided to run as a Democrat instead of an Independent was because history has proven that Independent candidates cannot generate the monetary support needed to win an election. So while Mr. Bothwell is “borrowing” the title of “Democrat” to help his grassroots effort, I would bet that it is impossible for Mr. Bothwell to beat whatever GOP challenger wins the primary. Without adequate campaign financing, it can't be done. Why would Mr. Bothwell want to risk losing a seat currently held by a Democrat to a GOP candidate just for the sake of saying, “at least he tried?” Maybe it is because party affiliation doesn't matter to him and his preferred Independent status.
Aside from his questionable emails, I also object to Mr. Bothwell’s attack on Mr. Rogers' promise to work in a bipartisan effort to work for legislature for the betterment of the people in the District. I would have to assume that Mr. Bothwell believes that compromise is a sign of weakness and refuses to work with Republicans. We have repeatedly watched legislation that could change countless Americans lives be shot dead on the floor of Congress because of a partisan gridlock. Ideally, Congress should unite in a bipartisan effort to work for the people, not for a specific party's agenda. I find it incomprehensible that Mr. Bothwell would use Mr. Rogers' willingness to work together with Republicans as a negative attribute.
My final objection to Mr. Bothwell's attempt to represent the 11th Congressional District is the fact that he does not live in the 11th Congressional District. Unfortunately, redistricting carved Mr. Bothwell's house out of the District he is claiming to represent. There is no argument under the sun that can justify why voters should want to send someone to Congress to speak on their behalf when he does not even live in the District, even his headquarters falls outside of District lines. And, if you listen to his campaign speeches he rarely, if ever states what he is going to do for the people of Western North Carolina. Mr. Bothwell wants to be a politician to fix Wall Street, or to fight for equality for all, which is all well and good, but what is he going to do for me?
While Mr. Bothwell has spent his trek on the campaign trail bashing Congressman Shuler or Mr. Rogers, he has failed to get a message across about himself. What does he plan to do for me, for my family, for everything that I have been raised to love? I whole-heartedly believe the reason I don't know these things is because it doesn't matter to him. He wants the prestige of the title, not the privilege of working on my behalf, and quite frankly, that is to his detriment.