In the blood sport we have come to recognize as partisan politics, public exchanges among political opponents often deteriorate into verbal abuse, character assassination, vilification and smear campaigns.
Smear campaigns, by design, have little basis in fact. While a smear may rely on a splinter of the truth as its foundation, the actual facts surrounding the smear are obscured by a rapid series of political hit pieces or negative comments on social media specifically designed to provoke a destructive emotional response within members of the community. Once distracted by vilification and personal attacks, people stop focusing on the issues in a campaign and allow political operatives to work their will. Once the smear becomes the campaign focus, the democratic process, as we know it, is rendered dysfunctional.
The success of any smear is wholly dependent on the smear artist’s ability to remain anonymous. So, who is the operative running the smear campaign against Councilmember Sidhu? Is it former County Councilmember Kathy Kershner? Or, former County Councilmember Sam Crawford? I think that it’s highly unlikely that either Kathy or Sam is the actual mastermind of this smear.
So, who is the architect of this particular attack? I can only guess.
Traditionally, the proponents of a smear, are spin doctors, opposition researchers or political operatives who target an individual, like County Councilmember Satpal Sidhu, in order to hinder or halt unfettered debate and prevent the free exchange of ideas within the community. The goal is to suppress people’s desire to make informed decisions based on facts, and lead them towards decisions that are based on innuendo and political subterfuge.
Let’s take another look at the TreOil allegations. When Mr. Sidhu’s character was denounced publicly in such terms, it also brought into question the moral status of his intentions. Yet Ms. Kershner has not provided specific documentation that directly links Sidhu to the sump oil leak that was investigated in August of 1992. By claiming Mr. Sidhu is directly to blame for
the contamination, Ms. Kershner is stating that his character is blemished, even though his intentions may have been honorable. Did the leak exist? Yes. Was he responsible? We don’t have enough information to make a final conclusion at this time.
Recently, Ms. Kershner posted a comment on Mr. Sidhu’s election Facebook site challenging his citizenship status. “There is no requirement to check citizenship if he has permanent resident status,” she wrote. “The County Elections do not check citizenship status. The candidate simply signs a document stating that they meet the requirements to run for office. The longer Sidhu stalls on providing proof, the more suspicious this looks.”
Ms. Kershner’s demand that Mr. Sidhu provide proof of his citizenship status is little more than a covert blend of racism and xenophobia. After all, former President Obama produced a certificate of live birth from the state of Hawaii, but to this day, birthers still insist that he is lying about his citizenship.
My father Robert Barnes was born in Wales and is a naturalized US citizen. He served as a pilot in WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He is a highly decorated veteran, a proud American who also happens to be a Republican.
Does Ms. Kershner also want to see proof of my father’s citizenship? Why not? After all, he served as an elected Whatcom County official many years ago. If her assertions are correct, there must be many residents of Whatcom County clamoring to know whether my father was actually an American citizen at the time he took the oath of office.
But there is a difference between Mr. Sidhu and my father — not a difference that I relish pointing out. My father is Caucasian and a Protestant. No one is going to ask my father for proof of his citizenship status, or post a statement on his Facebook page, in the inflammatory words of Ms. Kershner, “Remember, the young man who shot and killed five people in the Burlington Mall was not a citizen, but he had registered to vote and had voted in elections (illegally). Our system has been intentionally designed to not verify citizenship when registering to vote.”
Many non-citizens have served the United States of America honorably in the armed services. Despite Ms. Kershner’s implications, not all non-citizens are criminals or mass murderers.
Ms. Kershner wraps up her Facebook statement saying, “Sidhu may very well be a citizen but he never mentioned it in either the 2014 or 2015 campaign. There is no public record of his citizenship. I would think that it would have made a great campaign story and he would have at least made a statement about how proud he was of becoming a citizen and now running for public office, . . . . Let’s see if he will put this issue to bed by releasing some form of documentation of citizenship status. ”
Sounds like a sore loser to me.
In closing, the demonization of a former political opponent by Ms. Kershner deeply offends the core principles of civility that we have come to cherish in America. Good government, more importantly, a properly functioning government depends upon open, unfettered public discourse. So, any political trick that is designed to prevent the rational examination of thoughts or ideas about public policy runs counter to the democratic principles cherished and revered by the American people, regardless of their cultural or religious background.