We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

There is no doubt that those pesky Russians have been posting a lot of fake news on social media sites, but they’re really only pouring gasoline on a fire that we Americans started over thirty years ago.

I’ve been covering politics longer than that, and I’ve watched and reported on the so-called “Great Divide” as it has widened to the point where you can’t even see the other side anymore.

I first dipped my toe into those poisoned waters in 1990, when I defended my friend Duane Sandin in his battle against the State of California over an alleged toxic waste spill at his home outside Grass Valley. I became acquainted with the Blue Ribbon Coalition, an early version of the Tea Party that documented what they considered outrageous “takings” of property rights by overzealous environmental interests. In some cases, their accusations were justified, while in others it could be argued that the property owners actions were detrimental to their neighbors property rights. (Erosion, water diversions, illegal buildings, etc.)

In Duane’s case, where he attempted to set up a refining operation to recover distilled thinner from body shops, he really had only himself to blame. He had no permits and was unlikely to ever receive any, considering his property was located next to a tributary to Deer Creek.

What I based my defense on was the massive overkill the state chose to heap upon him. There was no toxic waste spill of any kind, for which he was charged $57K. (This story was documented in my selfiography, Scablands. )

My real education on the division between right and left was during the local campaigns for control of the county board of supervisors between 1998 and 2004. I covered the story extensively  and got to know the players on both sides of the fence. It was perhaps the ugliest chapter of Nevada County politics in my lifetime.

At issue were the usual divisions over land rights. For the first time, left-leaning supervisors captured the majority of the board and immediately aimed their agenda on designating the Yuba River as a state wild and scenic river, protecting it from future dams. Next they proposed a new set of rules governing land use, known as Natural Heritage 2020.

The local Republicans were shocked by their defeat at the polls, which was prompted by their own inept leadership, but they did not go quietly into the night. In the following six years, they managed to win back their majority. NH2020 was unceremoniously dumped into the trash heap of history, but the Yuba River was saved and eventually became a state park. (My cartoons from that period are collected in my book, Once Upon A Village. )

The vitriol and dirty tricks during that period left a bitterness in local politics that still lingers. It should be noted that the internet played a very small part during those years, and the Russians were our new buddies. If anything, our people were spending money to convince Russian voters to reelect Boris Yeltsin.  What goes around comes around.

So as much as we would like to think things might have been different if not for those foreign hackers, the divide was already there. All they did was exploit our own prejudices. If we’re ever going to resolve our differences, it will depend on those outdated concepts known as compromise and consensus. Or, we can go on bickering until the nation falls apart.

When it comes to selling bullshit to voters, Americans are still number one.


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8 Responses to We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

  1. Thane says:

    Oh..the Drew Bedwell years, a tumultuous time for Nevada Countiy.

    • RL CRABB says:

      Drew Bedwell was a right wing activist who became the District Three Supervisor during that time. I’ll always remember talking with him at the table he would set up outside every county-sponsored NH2020 meeting. While we chatted, a fellow (whose name escapes me now) representing one of the many environmental organizations that suddenly appeared to support the cause walked up and introduced himself to Drew, saying how he looked forward to working towards a mutually beneficial resolution to their differences. Drew shook his hand and replied, “no we won’t.” The guy was struck speechless, and walked away in disbelief.

  2. I remember Bedwell refused to appear at a candidate forum–I don’t remember if it was sponsored by KVMR or The Union–because the people running it were a bunch of lefties. So much for engaging your opponents.

  3. Chris Peterson says:

    “compromise and consensus”
    “us and them”
    Concepts that instill a sense of political equality. Except, it doesn’t exist. From gerrymandering and Citizens United to Fox News and the NRA, the divide is made to appear equal in both numbers and political position, but it is far from it. Moreover, what we have is ever-more radical right-wing candidates squaring off with middle-of-the-road candidates made to look radically left by way of the deep pockets with profits to gain by the outcome.
    On most of the major issues of the day, upwards of *80% of the electorate agrees on the solutions yet, toss in tens of millions of dollars to muddy the waters, get right-wing media and Congressional leaders, (millionaires all), to weigh in and stir up their “base”, which is actually minuscule in everything but pre-programmed zeal, and add a touch of talking heads claiming to recognize both sides equally out a sense of “fairness”, and you have the current state of impass and our inability to solve our most basic problems as the democratic republic we are meant to be.

    So, compromise with a small, radical group of propaganda sponges and their corporate sugar-daddies? I don’t think so.

    * Typically, around 30% R, 70% D, and 50% I, which is the true political center.

  4. rl crabb says:

    Democrats like to poo-poo the rising number of independent voters. While it may be true that most will suck it up and vote for the lesser of two evils, or in California’s case the lesser of one evil, eventually they will tire of being taken for granted and taxed into oblivion. The current crop of gubernatorial candidates are falling all over each other promising new entitlements to win votes, but none of them can explain where all the extra cash will come from. http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-on-politics-column-20180301-story.html

    • Chris Peterson says:

      The Dems are screwed because they desperately need a changing of the old guard, and the R’s fare no better with the absence of anyone resembling a statesman of the masses.
      As a longtime independent, I’m getting pretty tired of waiting for someone to get their shit together. (It’s been so long, I doubt I would recognize it if they did.) Luckily, Oregon is a nice place to wait it out.

  5. Dirk says:

    Interestink read comrade.

  6. rl crabb says:

    Why have I rejected the two party duopoly? Read on, my partisan friends… https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/09/opinion/sunday/smug-liberals-conservative-trolls.html

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