LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Of curmudgeons, nastiness and political operatives

Before invoking my right of reply to Ms. Gaddis [“No room for ‘nastiness,’” Letters to the Editor, April 15], I would like to first congratulate Tanner Polce on his election to the Dover City Council. I wish him well in that post.

To me, it is obvious that for all candidates, local or otherwise, should be judged primarily on the basis of experience and/or commitment to address important issues. Deciding solely on the basis of lawn signs and likeability letters to me is not what Jefferson had in mind. Jefferson would have also argued that local government is indeed important, to his mind, more important than national ones.

In my letter to the Delaware State News, I endorsed Will Garfinkel and stated two reasons.

(1) The first was that Mr. Garfinkel was more experienced specifically in regard to the state of Delaware and the city of Dover. I did not, and do not, think experience as a “political operative,” or “campaign worker,” if you prefer, is in any way comparable. I did not attack Mr. Tanner’s character or dedication. While I will reply shortly to Ms. Gaddis’ reply, I ask the reader to consider the nature and language of Ms. Gaddis’ attack on me, and whether my words merited such vituperation.

(2) The second is that I think voters should use the ballot to express their dismay at our present state of affairs. I specifically mentioned the budget deficit, but I could also have added the prison situation. This is a product of “old boy network” whose membership appears to be Mr. Tanner’s only noted accomplishment that should be rejected. Ms. Gaddis is correct, there is potentially a “Republican old Boy Network,” but it is out of power, and the present malaise is owned totally by the Democrats.

Ms. Gaddis, in her reply, did not address either argument – especially number two. Instead, her myriad response to my argument demonstrated how even good people no longer address issues of substance, and prefer verbal onslaughts as a response.

Ms. Gaddis notes some slanted archaic descriptions of “curmudgeon.” If I were her, I should be careful of using archaic words from dictionaries. If she looked up other words, she would find narrow old prejudices that I assume she would not want to be associated with, i.e., “Jew,” “blackamoor,” “Indians/savage,” “woman/shrew” and other words.

More than likely, she did this purely to insult me. There are, of course, many ways of looking at “curmudgeons.” It has been written that they are independent thinkers, who go against the grain. It has been written that “most settings actually need curmudgeons to ruffle the feathers of the establishment.”

That is something we should all aspire to. Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Andy Rooney, Garrison Keillor and many others are routinely described as “curmudgeons,” and some of them are Democrats. Would Ms. Gaddis insult all of these men in the same way?

Let’s continue to talk about language. “Pejorative” is to her an evil word Ms. Gaddis accuses me of using to insult Mr. Polce. The State News must have not gotten the memo, because it described a Republican, Stone, as a “political operative” on the front page of Saturday’s [April 29] paper! Will she write an angry letter to the paper? Or will she forgive them, because they are only describing a Republican?

In any case, I respectfully disagree that it is pejorative, and find many words have taken on a PC component that is discussed by some far more than issues.

Let me explain. Today we are more likely to encounter “customer service representatives” in stores than “salesmen.” I was a salesman; I was not a “customer service rep” because I concentrated only on sales. If someone wants to be called a “customer service representative,” I would have no problem with that, and will call him/her whatever title he/she likes. Maybe that is more politically correct, but in honesty, he/she still does the same thing.

As a kid, I was a “political operative” for John Kennedy. I was proud of that role and proud of the title – I was not a “campaign worker” because I worked for JFK long after the campaign – for example, I helped as a volunteer at the Madison Gardens campaign for Medicare. I understand Tanner works for the party long after the election.

I think “operative” was more descriptive – but if someone wants to be called “campaign worker” or whatever, I would have no problem if that is what they prefer, but essentially he/she does the same thing.

I am reminded of a statement Bill Clinton, who once said, years ago, that a Mr. Obama would be delivering coffee to his table, [made] that “Make America Great Again” was a Trump code expression to return to a world of white supremacy. This was followed by a clip of Mr. Clinton using the same slogan in his campaign. I don’t know if it is hypocrisy when one is unaware that one is doing it, be it a former president or a letter writer.

Ms. Gaddis thinks by supporting one candidate and opposing another, I am repeating the “nastiness” of the last national contest. In the past, however, I denounced in this paper excesses in the past elections, made by both Democrats and Republicans, and I stand by them today. Ms. Gaddis, who argues that I am divisive, seems to remember only ones made by candidate Trump.

Let me put it another way: If Tanner Polce had the experience, and Mr. Garfinkel, as his opponent, had virtually none, I probably would have supported Tanner. Without ever talking to me about the issue, Ms. Gaddis assumes I vote unthinkingly the straight party ticket – “Republican” – because I vocally opposed Tanner Polce. Perhaps this is another example of the pot calling the kettle black – and being partisan and divisive.

As a matter of fact, I like a number and variety of Democrats – Jody Sweeney, Roy Sudler Jr. and Trey Paradee – because all of them have experience and ideas and want to make our area a better place. I don’t agree with everything they say, but I prefer any of them over an untested political neophyte – who I still hope will do right for Dover and our area.

I usually try to write about topics that interest me, and have been generally gratified by public responses. I knew if I would, I would be attacked if I supported a candidate. I did it anyway. I hope someday, the city of Dover makes good use of an experienced, talented man like Mr. Will Garfinkel.

In conclusion, do I enjoy being personally attacked? No, it is not nice, but as a curmudgeon who was the greatest man of the 20th Century, Winston Churchill, once said, “So you have enemies? Good! It means you have taken a meaningful stand!”

Larry Koch, Ed.D.

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