Politics Are Getting Personal

During the last nine years, the Voice of Scottsdale has received thousands of emails.  Some have been good and some have been bad.

After the last column on May 22nd titled "Businesses Buying Off On Phillips' Tax Increase Idea," we received an especially poignant email.  We believe it's worth sharing with readers in its entirety because of its unique opinion about our city's current political environment.

The author asked to remain anonymous.

"I first subscribed to your publication in 2010 or 2011.  Not sure, only that it has been quite a while that I've been reading the 'Voice of Scottsdale.' Depending on the topic, I share it with my friends.  I'll also show it to a couple of my co-workers from time to time.  It's always a conversation starter over lunch or around the coffee machine at the office.

"The blog about the sales tax really stirred us, particularly near the end when you wondered what would have happened if Linda Milhaven had suggested raising the rate of the sales tax rather than Guy Phillips.  It's really an intriguing question.  We ended up agreeing that if Councilwoman Milhaven had proposed it, it probably would have been dead on arrival, so to speak.  

"But why, then, is it okay with Phillips' supporters who normally would be up in arms about any kind of tax increase?

"It's easy to jump to the conclusion that Phillips' supporters are hypocrites.  But it may not be that simple.  We hashed it out and concluded that our city's politics are beginning to revolve less around policies.  Instead, it's starting to be more about personalities.

"Speaking only for myself, I think these 'new politics' are bad for Scottsdale.

"Thank you for listening."

In political-speak, the author of the email was saying it's no longer about the "message," it's becoming about the "messenger."

Will establishing public policy simply become a by-product of a political popularity contest in which citizens line up behind their favorite councilpersons or opinion leaders like lemmings, no matter what the issue?

Some of the old issues still persist like height and density, apartments and traffic.  However, citizens are now being polarized by other issues as well -- including the DDC/Desert Edge, raising the sales tax and managing the growth and marketing of the downtown area.

There's no question that the city's sharp political division has been an incubator for distrust.  That has created an "us against them" mentality that's dominating the debate on nearly every issue.  Facts no longer matter.  Truth gets twisted.  Innuendo overrides intelligent opinion. And political consensus is often organized around crazy conspiracy theories.

As a consequence, Scottsdale politics are being personalized.    

Ironically, some of those who like to rail about the lack of trust are actually exploiting it by capitalizing on their followers' blind faith in them.