Think Again: Divisive politics muddy the waters

Politics can be a dirty business and having dealt with that world for decades, I can vouch for it. There is so much lack of integrity that — despite having observed this for so long — it still astounds me what goes on behind the scenes that the general public doesn’t see.

Sometimes it’s an insecure elected leader who swings their weight around, trying to intimidate individual citizens or organizations because they’re not supporting them or their agenda. This often takes the form of threatening the interests of third parties with whom the individual is associated, trying to make them persona non grata and threatening their livelihood. This arrogant behavior ultimately leads to the demise of such immature elected leaders because they think they are invincible, a classic freshman mistake.

Also, it seems many incumbents are obsessed with maintaining their thrones and there is nothing they won’t do to thwart opposition. This can be seen in elections with the use of division as a path to power. This strategy has destructive long-term consequences for the greater community.

Genius incumbents encourage unqualified candidates to run so that they split the opposition votes. With enough “whacky” candidates, the incumbent appears as the rational choice. This strategy has been used successfully for the last several elections in Glendale, but it appears to be running out of steam.

Other times, businesses think they can buy the votes they need. Big businesses, especially ones run by business oligarchs, often will use their financial muscle to buy off the elected leaders. They will even try to suppress free speech through pulling advertising dollars from a local newspaper because they don’t like the media coverage. It reminds me of a spoiled kid throwing a tantrum because they can’t have the new toy they saw at the fancy mall.

Many people were encouraging me to run in this upcoming Glendale election, hoping for viable change in City Hall. Despite the pressures of my career, I seriously considered taking on this additional challenge because I believe we need fresh vision and leadership at this juncture.

In my deliberations, I decided to have a dialogue with many potential candidates to understand their vision and reasons for running. I found a few candidates who had the interests of the greater community in mind, but many were in it just for themselves. In the course of these conversations I also heard shocking vitriol that foreshadowed the environment of upcoming elections.

In the course of gathering hundreds of nomination signatures, I was humbled by the confidence people have in me and the support they were prepared to provide should I have taken the dive. I had countless conversations with families and voters from all walks of life that were both eye-opening in terms of the challenges people face but also inspiring by how much everyone cares about our collective future.

Running for elected office is a serious matter that shouldn’t be treated as a game, as some perennial candidates do. I made the difficult decision not to file this time because of the time it would take away from my family, and also because of the extremely divisive culture and dirty politics that have become pervasive in Glendale. This environment is a deterrent to good and eager people from entering the fray.

I hope the ugly politics will be exposed more and voters will express their lack of tolerance for such destructive behavior. Incumbents and new candidates alike must be held accountable for exemplifying integrity, maturity and constructive vision if they are to be elected as leaders.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

If candidates fall into the latter category, they should be rejected. And voters should be aware of the many wolves we have out there who are dressed in sheep’s clothing.

ZANKU ARMENIAN is a Glendale resident and a corporate communications professional. He can be reached at zanku.armenian@gmail.com.

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