A wise person once said "All politics is local". As a long-time resident of rural Texas, I can say definitively, that politics here is so local that you don’t even have to jumpstart the tractor to get there. Of course, politics everywhere has its usual repository of dirty tricks, but the close-knit community and the nose-sticking of everyone into someone else’s business has created the opportunity for the politics of personal destruction, lies, libel, and rumor-mongering. Rural politics may be the most fertile soil of any locale on the planet for the success of a shrewd and unscrupulous politician’s career.
The development of our post-modern society has blunted, to some degree, some of the old time-tested attacks in politics. The suggestion that Mary Lou saw Billy-Mack (who’s running for JP of district 5 you know) staring a bit too long at Joey Smith’s tight Wrangler jeans during the county fair auction, or that someone saw Murray Molson’s white Ford F150 dualie parked by the fence across from the young widow Sally Evans’ house last Saturday when his wife was at the women’s church social (And he wants to be sheriff?) Don’t carry the grave weight that they might have in the past. But politicians are nothing if not resilient. They are able to redefine the most fundamental words in the English language or lie a bigger lie to cover up the truth. Certainly, coming up with more modern ways of trashing your opponent couldn’t be beyond their abilities.
Success for a politician may also be measured by how many hands he shakes, babies he kisses, or good-old-boys in the network he knows. Garnering absentee votes from demented or comatose constituents in the local nursing homes never hurts. It never hurts to have a sister, cousin, or son in the medical profession. (I just know Mrs. Pablum would want to vote for Uncle Harry, do we have any old papers with her signature on them?) Also, in the more rural areas, dead people can vote, often more than once. What are you gonna do, arrest them? (Momma would’ve wanted it that way) Swaying a big-hat in the community never hurts your campaign. Every Boss Hogg has their acolytes who through threat or admiration will cast their vote in parallel with the Hand that Feeds them. (I’m not saying you can’t vote for that dirty snake Thornton, just remember, my niece Thelma at the courthouse can look up how you vote, it’s public records) Finding out that someone’s resident status is questionable to qualify them for office is pure gold. If you can even suggest that someone is carpetbagging, the general populace (who think if your great-grandma’s pa wasn’t born in the county means you’re "new around here") will revolt, and (usually figuratively) run the scoundrel out of town on a rail.
When all else fails, the last-minute tactics are deployed. An early morning round of sign-picking just before election day may lose your opponent the votes of the short-term-memory deficient. (What was that Sammy guy’s last name again, Ma?) Just don’t get caught with the signs in the back of your Dodge Ram 2500 diesel. (as one local politician did here, which resulted in his losing the election - some name-recognition is NOT good.) Suggesting someone wants to bring Wal Mart into town and close down all the Dollar stores and IGA’s is also a 48-hour political wildfire that gives the opponent no time to respond. The suggestion that your opponent is in the pockets of a strip-club that wants to build at the city limits is more iffy - you must judge your populace more carefully there. A last-minute ghost-writing campaign of letters to the editor trashing your opponent penned by you but sent into the paper by several of your cousins and in-laws can also be effective, but only in the portion of the population who is literate, or has someone to read the paper to them.
Finally, the most entertaining part is often what happens after the elections when aggressively ambitious but talentless bumpkins actually succeed in their bid for office. The scandals, divorces, DWI’s, arrests for drunken and disorderly conduct, skimming from the public till, and personal conflicts you read about in the Local Review are simply the rancid cream skimmed from the whole rotting pail of milk of what’s really going on behind the scenes. The real juicy stuff is what you hear at the barber’s shop or the beauty salon, and it’s always "the truth", you know. Still, life goes on, and our sales taxes get sent to the state to get sent back as grants. Laws get made, cases get tried, drunks get arrested, and life maintains it’s usual stately and leisurely pace. The system’s not half bad, more like two-thirds, but it works, kind of, and that’s what matters.
During the last election cycle, I remember driving past a red, white, and blue sign, with the obligatory star on it stating in double-bold letters Hicks for Sheriff
and I thought "Why not? Heck, we’ve got hicks for County Attorney, Judge, and Justice of the Peace already... What’s one more?"