Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

The regrets of a southern strategist

Russell thoughts 1Last year, many of us watched the Senate campaign between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan play out on our televisions and splashed across the papers in the most expensive race in U.S. history. More than $103 million was spent as the candidates engaged in a spirited campaign.

Thom is not just a huge supporter of business at the lake or simply one of our own.  I have known the Senator and his wife Susan for more than a decade and they are both personal friends. I cringed watching the attack ads on TV and seeing the messaging in newspapers.  Much of it was baseless and untrue.  I’m also quite certain the same could be said in regards to the attacks on then Senator Hagan.

A product of South Carolina, one of our native sons was a master of negative advertising.  The late Lee Atwater had few rivals in his ability to spin, boxing candidates into corners, and helping his party and their candidates onto victory.

In the last few weeks I have read things on social media about local candidates for office that I think would make even Lee Atwater blush.  Social media such as Face Book and Twitter allow anonymous critics to hurl filth with the only true goal – to maliciously hurt another individual.  Some keyboard cowboys and cowgirls launch personal attacks that they would never do face to face.  What some claim as fact is nothing more than pure fiction designed to prop themselves up by pulling others down.

In the end, it is our community which is hurt most by the baseless accusations and negative attacks. Negative campaigning is nothing new.  The founding fathers of our country did not get along either. Even George Washington was falsely accused of being senile by those who sought to take his office.lee-atwater-1138-20070813-4

Perhaps no one said it better than Lee Atwater himself.  Facing the illness which eventually took his life at age 40, he said, My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring—acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most.”

“But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.”

The words we choose can be daggers to the soul or inspire others to reach new heights. In the end – the choice is ours.

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Personal, Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spinning Away

spinningRemember when spinning used to be something you did when you were a kid going round and round on the playground Round-A-Bout?  Today, its taken on a whole new meaning.  Spin is what political handlers do when they tell you what you “really” saw and heard after you saw and heard it.  Watch any national debate and immediately after the event is over, political advisors are falling over themselves to get to the nearest microphone to tell you their side of what just happened.

Many of you have read the stories of my Granddaddy Russell.  Granddaddy was a farmer who could pretty much see through anybody’s spin.  I know firsthand because I considered myself a “master spinner” from the time I could talk.  Grandmamma didn’t call it spin. She claimed I was just flat telling a story.  One afternoon, I was giving my best spin on how the grades marked on my report card didn’t accurately reflect how well I was doing in school.

Granddaddy sat down, took off his hat, and took a long swallow on his ice water.  I knew that was a sure sign I was in for one of his colorful stories. Granddaddy asked, “Billy, have I ever told you about Uncle Earnest’s chickens?”  “No, I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Well, your great uncle had these chickens in a large hen house when they  started to fight, wounding and killing each other. One day, Earnest got this advice from a retired state representative who lived up the road and always had an answer for everything.     “Add some uncooked grits to the chickens’ food,” said the stately politician, “it will calm them down.”Kenny_Delmar_as_Senator_Claghorn

After a week Uncle Earnest came back to the sage and said, “My chickens continue to die. What should I do?”   “Add apple cider to their drinking water, that will help for sure,” said the representative .  A week passed, and again your uncle went up to see the wise man. “The dang chickens are still quarrelling. Do you have any more answers?”

“I can give you more advice,” answered the retired politician. “The real question is whether you have any more chickens.”     Like the boy who cried wolf one too many times, eventually my uncle realized while the retired representative had a different remedy for the same situation, his chickens would one day run out.  While my grandparent’s love was boundless, eventually my stretching the truth would have its limits.

In any election season with all the reasons why you should support or oppose something – you need to ask yourself – Does it benefit my family, my business, and my community?    While you may not have a child in school, does paying for school construction benefit our thriving business community?  What about mass transit?  According to the City of Charlotte, the average Mecklenburg County citizen spends about $39 a year to support our transit tax.  Is it worth the price of a” Big Mac” hamburger a month to make sure we have bus service for those people who don’t have cars or who choose to take a bus to their jobs?

It would be a real welcome change to turn on the television or radio and hear an elected official give a response that was free of political spin.  Just a simple answer to simple questions.  Instead we hear someone say this and twelve different people have twleve different interpretations of what was said.  Sometimes I think we’re just spinning out of control.

March 13, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , | Leave a comment