Politics of malice

FI-EditorialNo doubt there were some who got exactly what they wanted when Stephanie Paulmeno had to drop out of the race for first selectman this week. Everyone else is left to consider the sad state of Greenwich politics.

At issue was a story three years ago in the Greenwich Time about a proposal to designate areas in town where registered sex offenders wouldn’t be permitted. Ms. Paulmeno, whose son is a registered sex offender after an attempted assault on a woman in Nevada, spoke out against this and was quoted as making a distinction between rape and date rape.

In a series of emails to the Post, residents brought to light these comments that were long forgotten by most. And once the scandal drums began beating, her departure became inevitable.

What was actually said remains unclear. Ms. Paulmeno insists she does not remember giving the interview and that she would never say something like that. The paper stands by its story and there is no evident reason to doubt its reporting. That leaves two sides both saying they’re right and nothing to prove either one is wrong, hardly the kind of position that provides clarity, especially when a person’s reputation is at stake.

Ms. Paulmeno called this a “horrific smear campaign” and it stinks like one. This had all the marks of a coordinated campaign to either pressure or humiliate Ms. Paulmeno.

All the emails the Post received on this issue were suspiciously similar in tone and phrasing. None of the authors responded to requests for clarification. They sent in their emails and then went silent. And none of the authors wanted their names out there in published letters to the editor. Heavens no, they weren’t making accusations. They were simply “asking questions” about a candidate’s suitability for elected office.

Well those people got what they wanted. Ms. Paulmeno is out and the motives behind this remain a mystery. Was it Republicans who wanted to humiliate the Democrats? People who decided Ms. Paulmeno was the reason the sex offender zone law failed? Or people who simply thought that this story really did indicate a woman devoted to health and women’s issues was somehow going to make Greenwich a paradise for sex offenders and rapists?

Bloggers can scream “hypocrisy” to their hearts’ content as they try to compare these reported comments to the ideological pronouncements of certain Republican candidates in statewide races in 2012, like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. We all know more than we wanted to about where their personal faith and their public philosophy come together. And some residents of our town feel they have to ask the political question, “where is the outrage” over Democrat Stephanie Paulmeno?

But that’s nonsense. Agree or disagree with her politically, Ms. Paulmeno has decades of experience working on women’s health and on issues like domestic violence and sexual assault and abuse. Candidates like Mr. Akin and Mr. Mourdock, on the hand, have long records of opposing basic health care for women by attacking Planned Parenthood and opposing contraception services for those who seek to practice what the rest of us preach about personal responsibility and personal liberty.

Greenwich politics is the poorer for this and not because Stephanie Paulmeno was on the verge of pulling off a political upset. Democrats face extremely long odds in this race no matter who their candidate is. We all lose because this blows the door open to everything that makes national politics so unpleasant to sit through.

Does anyone really want Greenwich politics to come down to who made what gaffe? Do candidates of any party really want to have their pasts, or problems family members may have faced, tossed out there like dirty laundry? Is this what municipal elections will be about now? Do Greenwich Republicans really want to repeat the race of 2003, where the party split and races for first selectman and probate judge became deeply personal battles? Because if this is where Greenwich is headed no candidate is going to be immune.

No one pretends that municipal politics is only about “may the best man win” like we’re electing the mayor of Mayberry. But there’s politics of politics and the politics of malice.

No one wants to be the candidate whose name is being dragged through the mud and it demeans us all, even when it happens to “the other party.” This needs to stop right here. If it doesn’t, politics in Greenwich is about to get a whole lot worse.

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress