Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo, entranced audiences with a tale of intrigue, misdirection and subterfuge that finally exposed a twisted plot of virtual reality worthy of some of the best cinematic manipulations of modern-day thrillers. Hitchcock, however, has nothing on the merry-go-round of musical chairs that politicians play as election season appears on the horizon. It’s enough to give the electorate the spinning, disorienting symptoms of vertigo.
Even though many residents are bracing for summer activities and counting the days to vacations, summer events and what to do with the kids who are out of school, the political game is already off to a running start for 2020 festivities. Some politicians are termed out of office; but never fear, they will find a vacant seat to fill in another venue. Everything is fair game: city councils, school and college boards, county supervisor, state office or anything else that keeps the paycheck coming and ambitions viable.
Just as the central character of the film Vertigo was unable to separate his perception of events with what had actually happened, so too it is difficult to follow the scorecard of politicians as they scramble to maintain their hold on elected or appointed office. A flurry of activity to replace or displace elected officials is now in play. Along with announcements of retirements and intentions to run for office, strident displays of indignation and policy pronouncements will multiply as those with ambitions seek to continue in their career. Either by reelection, or if termed out of their current office or in search of a different position in the political hierarchy, politicians are now making their intentions known to fellow aspirants and the public.
Some politicians are looking ahead toward the perceived heights of state and national office while others may be searching for a safe haven to slip into obscurity with position and privilege but less notoriety and pressure. Such havens may be a temporary respite until the next election cycle or, a relatively anonymous situation to “retire” insulated from intense public scrutiny.
Consider this… how much do you know about what a city councilperson does, county supervisor, state legislator, representative or senator? Examination of local politics is less complex; meetings are local and those elected are accessible. However, as politicians move toward office representing larger groups of constituents, contact is less likely and actions are less visible. At the state and national level, depending on the issue, there can be significant attention through press coverage. But county government is an example of a gray area that administers unincorporated areas and acts as a liaison between city and state government. A good place to remain in limbo or catch your breath before a bigger challenge?
Much of this maneuvering takes place as back room deals that rely on political party affiliation and strategy. Others, not tempered by such strategies, may defy established politicos and strike out on their own. In most cases, the exceptionalism bug strikes hard and has no antidote. A taste of power and prestige with access to money is an alluring prize, almost impossible to ignore. Even husband/wife teams are susceptible such as Bill & Hillary Clinton or Mitch McConnell & Elaine Chao on the national scene and, on the local scene in Fremont, Vinnie Bacon & Jenny Kassan. In any case, the machinations of political maneuvers are enough to give an outsider vertigo.