Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I wish that I could have blogged about this before Election Day, but my four-year-old iBook developed a bad case of amnesia. Fortunately, I was able to fix this by replacing a dead 512 meg memory card with one of twice that capacity, and it looks like my main axe will last me a while longer.

The recent election here in Monroe County was colorful out of all proportion to its mere 35% voter turnout. Or maybe the turnout was down simply because some aspects of the campaign were just too damned colorful. The report in the local paper is deceptively low-key as well.

A bit of background for those not living in New York State: Our governor has proposed that illegal immigrants should be able to get driver licenses in New York, subject to certain limitations. This has become a contentious issue, but one that I won't address directly here. (Interested readers can Google for "Eliot Spitzer immigration driver license" sit back, and watch the fur fly. You might want to pop some popcorn first if you find this kind of thing entertaining.)

Nothing directly pertaining to this issue was on state or local ballots this year, nor was our governor up for re-election. Still, about a week before the election, Rick found this charming message in our mailbox:

If you click to enlarge the images, you'll notice the bold, decisive print and the striking photography. Also appreciate the single artful use of the words "welfare benefits" amidst the other sentiments expressed. Incidentally, if you click on the first photo for a closer look and try to make out the name on the license on top of the stack, you'll notice that the surly dude in the kaffiyeh is named Anthony. (Rick dubbed him "Tony the Sheikh".) Anthony's secret identity nonwithstanding, the mailing offended a large proportion of its recipients and precipitated many, many complaints to the Monroe County Republican headquarters. I mean, you'd think no one in the county had ever seen a racist caricature wrapped in a jingoistic screed before.

But -- wait, that's not all. Many households in the county received automatic phone calls from these clowns. Not once, not twice, but once a day for an entire week before the election. The 'bot calls pretty much repeated the sentiments expressed in the flyer, only in a variety of freakishly chirpy voices. One of those voices belonged to the current sheriff of Monroe County, and another to our county clerk. While you do have to give these elected officials style points for lending their own voices to the kind of dirty campaign trick usually delegated to the shadows, this really made me worry about how they would treat a citizen who required their official services while wearing a kaffiyeh. Or if his name was Anthony.

I actually own a kaffiyeh -- not as a political symbol, but simply because kaffiyehs make comfortable light scarves and were very much in fashion for that purpose about fifteen years ago. I thought about digging mine out of storage and wearing it to the polling place as a gesture of solidarity, but as it turned out Rick and I had some late work to do and there just wasn't time to change before voting. I wish I could tell you that the offending party lost its majority in the county legislature. Actually, its lead was merely cut from 17-12 to 15-14, but more than a few potential swing voters explained to exit pollsters that they made their choices after been put off by the ads. I suspect that more than a few Republicans stayed home because they didn't want to vote for non-Republicans but were offended by their own party's tactics. (I'd consider doing the same, or at least voting third-party, if the local Democrats ever pulled a cheap trick like this.)

Anyway, things have settled down here, and as far as I can tell, nothing much is going to change. If you're ever in the Rochester area and run into a guy named Anthony who wears a kaffiyeh, it's probably nothing to worry about; you probably won't have to frisk him for semiautomatic weapons. You might, however, find him a good resource if you want to find a place to buy wingtip shoes. He'll probably be able to warn you about which shoe shops hire illegal immigrants, too. And he's going to make damned sure that they keep on taking the bus to work.

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At 10:16 PM, Anonymous Rebecca said...

Love the part about "weakening the security of our licenses". Was a wall of plastic NY licenses what the county used as a barrier to the terrorists? Someone needs to alert Lee Greenwood.

We had nothing like this in Ohio, but my part of the state is all Democrat. All incompetent, machine Democrat, but it means fewer stupid commercials. Not to mention that I have a DVR and almost never watch commercials.


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