Canadian writer John Robert Columbo said, “Canada could have had French culture, American know-how, and English government. Instead it got French government, English know-how, and American culture.”
What should have transpired when two congressional candidates for the same office, with virtually identical ideologies, the same party affiliation and decades of service between them squared off?
Voters might have expected a high-minded contest dominated by intelligent repartee, some good-natured ribbing and an in-depth discussion of policy.
Instead, they witnessed a physical altercation, venomous verbal assaults and childish exchanges. There were respectable moments, but the tenor plummeted into arrogant behavior and pettiness.
Congressmen Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, in their relentless efforts to discredit each other, proved that men could be boys. Their campaign will be remembered as an expensive embarrassment to California’s Democratic Party.
They lowered the bar of debate, but for what?
Was it about who was better suited to represent the newly configured 30th Congressional District? If it were, I would have expected the fight to follow a higher road. What’s more, an honorable campaign would have guaranteed a gracious exit for the loser and an excellent chance for him to continue as a respected spokesman in the world of politics.
Alas, that will not be the case.
While the loser on November 6 will still have opportunities for interviews, speechmaking and occasional appearances on cable news or radio programs, he will always be remembered as a bitter also-ran – a reputation that will serve as a glass ceiling in the pursuit of alternative career opportunities in government.
Berman and Sherman were not considering life beyond Election Day. They were fixated first and foremost about keeping a job and advancing personal prestige; promoting public service was a distant second in this race. Ergo, it was ego that drove the two.
Yes, there are plenty of other politicians who play in the mud for the power and fame that accompanies a high-profile position, but two seasoned representatives with generally solid reputations, getting in each other’s faces, shows just how politics can depreciate human nature.
It will not end well for these gentlemen – the winner or the loser. Outside of their respective inner circles, they will be remembered as churlish contenders who squandered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set the gold standard for campaign conduct.