They live among us, and now they’ve apparently taken over: Marxists now hold four of five seats on the Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors.
What’s more, we voters elected these socialists handily. And, even scarier, these insurgents look and talk like the rest of us. If you pass any of them in the aisles of Save Mart or Lowe’s, you’d figure they were normal.
But now they’ve seized power in a county that went firmly for Donald Trump. Nearly 60% of the county’s voters turned out for the president. Yet many of those same voters resoundingly elected apparently dangerous lefties to board seats in districts encompassing the heart of our county: Sonora, Jamestown and Columbia.
So why hasn’t this startling anomaly garnered statewide attention? Why hasn’t the LA Times, the Sacramento Bee or NBC News sent reporters our way?
Because the story is fake:
Its source is a full-page, pre-election ad that an outfit I had never heard of — the Constitutional Patriots of Tuolumne County — ran in The Union Democrat.
“ALMOST COMPLETE,” it trumpeted. “Indivisible’s takeover of Tuolumne County.”
It suggested that supervisorial candidates David Goldemberg (District 1) and Jaron Brandon (District 5) had an “aggressive Marxist radical agenda.” And that they would join two more socialists, Ryan Campbell and Kathleen Haff, to hijack our board.
And all four, the ad let us know, are puppets of Tuolumne County Indivisible.
Tuolumne County Indivisible?
I hadn’t heard of these guys either until about a month ago, when I looked them up. Indivisible was launched after Donald Trump’s 2016 win by wound-licking Democratic congressional staffers.
The organization now has some 3,800 chapters nationwide, including one right here in Tuolumne County. The local organization’s mission: “Inclusiveness, participation and protecting our democracy from the bottom of the ticket to the top.”
I didn’t see the words “Marxism” and “socialism” on Indivisible’s website. But it is clearly aligned with the Democratic Party — which may be regarded by some in our neck of the woods as a subversive organization.
And who exactly are these newly victorious Reds?
Jaron Brandon is a Sonora High grad who was student body president and a political science major at UC Merced before moving back to Tuolumne County to work at the family’s East Sonora music store. David Goldemberg is retired after working for Cal Fire as a firefighter and administrator for 35 years.
Don’t sound like socialists? Well, they never do.
Ryan Campbell had been my colleague at The Union Democrat before running for the board. And Kathleen Haff had somehow infiltrated my yoga class. I never suspected a thing,
Bottom line: Indivisible supported Goldemberg and Brandon in the District 1 and 5 races. The Constitutional Patriots backed write-in candidate Cody Ritts and two-term incumbent Karl Rodefer.
I watched all of them in the League of Women Voters supervisorial debate, and I don’t think the words “socialist” or “Marxist” were uttered. In fact all four of the candidates came across as pretty nice guys. But Rodefer did mention that the campaign had become pretty nasty.
He got that right. But thank the Patriots’ ads for ramping that nastiness up a few rungs: More political broadsides and heated responses followed. Democrat letters to the editor also ramped up the rhetoric, leaving respect and tolerance in the dust.
I never took out my cyber machete and hacked my way into the Internet jungle in search of more controversy and contention. But, from what I heard, I would have found it in spades. On both sides.
Moderation? Middle ground? Compromise? Nonexistent.
Some perspective: I’ve been around here for nearly 50 years and I have voted in and covered dozens of Tuolumne County supervisorial elections. What’s more, for many of those years I had no idea which political party our local candidates belonged to.
County supervisor is supposed to be a nonpartisan office and for many decades it actually was. Although candidates differed in their approaches, good roads, effective law enforcement, responsible budgeting, fair taxation and creating a good climate for business were not party issues.
These are local matters, goes the logic, and who knows better how to decide them than local voters?
Since when, I’ve wondered of late, did patching potholes become a party issue?
My guess? Partisanship has been drifting downward from Washington for a while, and this year hit our county like an anvil.
Gridlock is now the rule in D.C.: In a town where Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill once made bipartisan deals, nobody is talking. Moderates are an endangered species and compromise is viewed as caving. Votes are by party line, and the middle has all but disappeared.
Is that what we want here in Tuolumne County? We got a taste of it this election season, and it was bitter.
But there are encouraging signs:
• First, it’s pretty clear that the Constitutional Patriots gambit backfired. If I were Goldemberg or Brandon, I’d send the Con Pats a thank-you letter.
• Second, both Karl Rodefer and Cody Ritts were gracious in defeat and wished their successful opponents the best. This is not happening in Washington.
• Amid the nearly nonstop vitriol in The Union Democrat’s letters to the editor came voices of reason, calling for both sides to take a step back:
“Do these candidates believe the only way to get elected is to smear their opponents? What happened to running on your own strengths and accomplishments?” asked Suzanne Holland.
“The finger-pointing and name calling are the harshest yet,” lamented Cindy Hadell. “Is this how we choose to live? Are we to load our guns, bar the doors and fight our neighbors, who apparently are actually our enemies?”
“What have we come to in this county that we have to choose sides?” asked my friend Kathy Francis, who taught all of my kids at Columbia Elementary School and now has a lesson for the rest of us. “I love Tuolumne County and want what is best for all. Public service is a calling I embrace without political strings attached.
“Please be kind. Our children are watching.”
• Finally, the votes have been counted and, no, the socialists and Marxists have not “taken over.” Instead, we voters put new board members of our own choice in office.
And in a community like ours, county supervisors remain our friends and neighbors. They don’t live in ivory towers or ride limousines. They are approachable and accountable.
You can still call them on the phone (even if they didn’t get your vote), offer suggestions and even give them a piece of your mind.
And if they don’t listen? Well, you can vote them out of office fair and square in another two or four years. When the rhetoric, I hope, will be toned down.
(Given our partisan climate, a few readers may not take kindly to my words and go racing to the county Elections Office to find out if I’m a registered Socialist. I’ll save them the trouble: I’m a Democrat. But a Democrat who had not voted for his party’s presidential nominee for 12 years and has a “State of Jefferson Border Patrol” license-plate frame on the back of his pickup truck. I think of myself as an endangered-species moderate who is wary of the far right and far left. Still, when I drove through Washington Street’s political gantlet at the height of this campaign season, I waved to demonstrators on both sides of the street).