Friday, October 28, 2011

A Disappointing Endorsement

Unopposed Throgmorton Backs Dobyns in District A

Jim Throgmorton has got the easiest race in town. The former city council member was such a prohibitive favorite that he cleared the field, and will take over for Regenia Bailey in the District C seat with no opposition.

Jim's still running a campaign, though. He's doorknocking and has a website and signs, one in my yard.

But with no opposition, Throgmorton has a little extra time on his hands to get involved in the other two contests. And Thursday he emailed supporters with an endorsement in the District A race:
I have been very impressed by Rick Dobyns. You and I surely will not agree with Rick on every issue that comes up, but I have found him to be thoughtful, hardworking, and very knowledgeable about the issues that have been raised in the candidate forums. In many private conversations, I have also found him to have a generous spirit and engaging sense of humor. He would be a pleasure to work with on the City Council.

I am unable to make similar comments concerning his opponent, Steve Sobaroff. He and I have disagreed fundamentally on almost every important issue that's been discussed in the forums, and I think he would be very difficult to work with on the Council.

Now, I've never once voted for a candidate I agreed with 100 percent, and that includes the time I ran myself. But I've got to note my disagreement with Jim here.

Throgmorton was a solid old-school Iowa City style progressive during his two years on the council in the mid-90s. Those were the glory days, when we were one seat away from Mayor Karen Kubby.

But around the turn of the century, Iowa City progressives developed a self-righteous, moralistic, in loco parentis streak in the name of "public health" and started to scrub and sanitize and neuter the city. I'm not attributing this to Jim, but I see it in the candidate he supports.

We've heard time and again in the marriage equality debate that a majority shouldn't be able to take cherished rights away from a minority. We hear in the death penalty argument that standing on principle is not an endorsement of the specific crime. I wholeheartedly agree.

But what happens when the rights someone cherishes are less high-minded? What if the right a large minority of voting age adults cherishes is the right to have a beer and a smoke in a bar?

Then all of a sudden "progressives" are either silent or openly in opposition. Rather than defend the idea that an 18 year old is an adult, one leading "progressive" conducted Sunday morning "puke-tours" of downtown, attacking admittedly bad behavior but ignoring higher principles and, frankly, demonizing young people.

The smoking debates were even worse than the bar wars. They were less anti-smokING and more anti-smokER, with the Public Health Uber Alles police unable to speak for more than two sentences without their clear, gut-level contempt for smokers coming out. All their knowledge of the science and nature of addiction was forgotten under their personal disgust.

And no Iowa Citian epitomized that mindset more than Dr. Rick Dobyns. Other "progressives" were followers, but Dobyns led the unsuccessful 21 bar fight in 2007. That fight, at the local level, appears to be done for now, at least until we deal with a jail next year. Even Raj Patel doesn't want to revisit it, preferring to focus on the reality of post-21 downtown. (He's more grown up about it than me. I've held some grudges longer than Raj has been alive.).

But which side you were on still matters. It says a lot about your respect, or contempt, for the citizens -- ALL of the citizens -- of your city. And there was a lot of contempt for young people in the Bar Wars. That specific issue was just the largest example of what I call the Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students mentality, a theme Steve Soboroff is addressing in his call for a more "student friendly" Iowa City.

From what I hear Rick Dobyns is a good physician; he's treated my friends and former family members and I hope he has lots of time to continue his practice. And lots of liberals give him a pass because he's a "public health advocate" who occasionally shows up at a Democratic fundraiser.

But I just don't think it's "progressive" to support, advocate, and lead a fight to take rights away from people, even if or especially if they're rights you don't personally care for.

I'm struck by the diamond shape of the Dobyns signs. Trim the corners and you have an octagon: a stop sign. Steve Soboroff doesn't have signs and I'd love a Stop Dobyns sign for my yard. I could easily find the, um,  raw materials to make one in a lot of west side yards... naah, too many people know where I live and I suspect Rick wouldn't have a sense of humor about it. Blogger Charged With Stealing Signs is not a headline I need.

Steve Soboroff is by no means a progressive. He's cantankerous and politically incorrect. He doesn't have a "generous spirit and engaging sense of humor." But at least Steve seems to hold everyone in equal contempt, rather than focusing his contempt on the politically powerless young community like the Wellness Police do. I wish Steve was running a more conventional campaign, or at least the Gonzo Campaign, with the tools of ads and ballot drives that you actually need.

It felt really strange marking my ballot for Steve Soboroff. It was like two years ago, when I told a Republican friend I had voted for student candidates Jeff Shipley and Dan Tallon, instead of overwhelming winners Terry "Don't Beg In Front Of My Jewelry Store" Dickens and Susan Mims. My friend said "Deeth, you voted No." (I responded that No was a mild way to put it and a raised middle finger would be more accurate.)

So that's what I did. I voted No. I voted Stop Rick Dobyns.

Please join me in voting for Steve Soboroff.

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