...Some friends had spoken of the possibility of an election party, but nothing ever materialized. But then, on this day, we heard that Pete Maddox had secured a room for the evening at the Holiday Inn on La Paz.
Most of us realized that Maddox and [Leo] Galcher’s election chances were dicey, and so, not wishing to experience communal disappointment I suppose, some decided to monitor the election from the comfort of home. But I’d never been to this sort of party, and so, after going home and feeding my cats Buster and Sunny, I headed over to La Paz.
The room at the Inn was set up in the usual way for such functions: tables and chairs, food, busy busboys, clinking glasses, a blaring TV displaying the vacant face of Jerry Dunphy. (Evidently, we couldn’t get OCN.) When I arrived, there were only five or six others, but soon, some 40 and 50 people were in the room.
Later in the evening, someone said that, as you look around the room, you see the very best people of the district: people known for their integrity and decency. I could not help imagining the party for the other side: Mr. McClendon discoursing on democracy and unionism; Lee Walker in the corner, trying to think of the name of the Governor; Ken Woodward hissing and sneering and alerting others of his “Ph.D. in economics”; a bepolyestered Sherry bitching and moaning about her unparalleled labors at the Xerox machine; some of the “Scandalous Boys” leering and choking and turning red; Frogue and Mathur trading paranoid fantasies. In a room like that, no decent person could resist the urge to go postal.
At about 9:00, we got news about the absentee votes. It wasn’t good. Pete assured us, however, that Maddox/Glacher had made their presence known at the end of the campaign, and the absentee ballots reflect the situation near the beginning of the campaign, when Padberg and Wagner had been busy sending mailers. People were reassured.
I talked with lots of people while I nursed two over-priced beers. Eventually, I talked with Pete, who seemed hopeful but realistic about the situation. We agreed that the Maddox/Galcher team had put up a very good fight, and, if “we” lose, we will be able to hold our heads up high. I offered that you can’t really expect to compete against huge chunks of sewer money and the other side’s willingness to do whatever it takes to win, no matter how unseemly and unethical.
One thing our union leadership and Padberg/Wagner have in common, it seems, is a willingness to embrace the notion, long discredited among civilized folk, that the “end justifies the means.” I remember challenging Sherry to acknowledge this aspect of her “leadership” at a forum shortly after the notorious ’96 campaign. (January 10, 1997.) On that occasion, she said that the leadership had to resort to unsavory campaign tactics in order to “preserve life as we know it.”
“So,” I said, “you are saying that the end justifies the means.” “No,” she answered. “I am not saying that at all. I’m saying that we needed to take this action [using a homophobic flier] to protect life as we know it.” Oh. At the time, I got the distinct impression that the woman does not know what the phrase “end justifies the means” means.
And Padberg and Wagner? They were a part of a larger effort by the right-winged Education Alliance to place proponents of “traditional values” and “school choice” on school boards.
Isn’t honesty a traditional value? Well, yes, but it must take a back seat when victory for the righteous is at stake, apparently. There is, of course, no “tide of liberalism” sweeping through south county. And, as trustees, Padberg and Wagner will be able to do absolutely nothing to prevent the El Toro airport. Padberg and Wagner lied and deceived to get elected.
Pete went to the phone and talked with a reporter at the Registrar of Voters. By then, the party was at its liveliest, but I could see that he was getting bad news.
After a while, he walked up and turned down the TV. Everyone hushed. He explained that we had lost both races.
He became eloquent. He spoke of the friends he had made and the quality of the people with whom he had worked during the campaign. He expressed genuine regret that we hadn’t done better.
At one point, Pete, contradicting my philosophers, assured us that the bad guys only win in the short run; they always lose in the long run. This, of course, is false.
Still, we can hope. Who knows? Perhaps someday Mr. P, overcome by one of his bilious thoughts, might lose control of his fancy Beemer, jump a curb, and ram the damn thing up Frogue’s a**. Williams, Fortune, Lorch, Mathur, and their sleazy union allies will then attend their hero’s funeral, where, mysteriously, they will be dispatched by a lurid gas emenating from the Great Man’s gaping mouth. After the vapors clear, peace will break out throughout the district. Once again, things will be right.