ON THE AVENUES SPECIAL EDITION: Adam’s rib tips.
A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.
In a response to yesterday’s column, in which I discussed the movie Animal House in the context of our forthcoming mayoral race in New Albany, a reader made an unflattering analogy, comparing the incumbent mayor to Flounder by way of Dean Wormer’s admonition: “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.”
I disagree with this characterization, and to explain, please permit me to propose a different theory to explain the past three wasted years.
But first, an interesting episode from Imperial Russian history.
It was the year 1905. The war with Japan was going badly for Tsar Nicholas II, and there was social unrest on the home front. Revolutionaries of many stripes sought to co-opt workers and peasants, and often, the alliances were cynical, with the revolutionaries perfectly willing to wield the masses as human shields in pursuit of their greater aims.
Amid poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, many of Russia’s peasants still viewed the Tsar with reverence, seeing him as their “Little Father,” one endowed by God with a heartfelt concern for the well-being of his people, yet unable to address obvious evils and inequalities through no fault of his own. Rather, he was prevented from seeing the problems owing to the venality and corruption of functionaries and intermediaries at the royal court.
How might the oppressed move past the tight cordon of self-interest, so as to tell the Tsar what he so desperately needed to know?
Finally an Orthodox priest named Father Georgi Gapon seized upon wintertime hunger and disaffection to write a petition intended to be conveyed directly to the Tsar, bypassing the underlings, and asking for the Tsar’s help in redressing the grievances of the peasants. A very large number of unarmed, ordinary people peacefully marched to the Winter Palace to present the petition.
The Tsar looked on with a shrug, and the petitioners promptly were attacked by police, resulting in a massacre known as Bloody Sunday. Twelve years later, the Romanov dynasty was toppled by the Bolsheviks, who bloodily settled accounts. It was a story later told not by Walt Disney, but Warren Beatty in his film Reds, which I heartily recommend.
Now, to the real point of this digression: When grading the mayor of New Albany, think less of Flounder’s grade point average than fraternity chapter president Hoover’s: Four Cees and one Eff. That’s because you’re only as mediocre as your handlers.
What if Jeff Gahan has been chosen as “best available figurehead,” an amiably willing pawn content to be advised by those operatives fancying themselves as Democratic Party power brokers?
In short, what if Gahan is Adam Dickey’s ongoing laboratory experiment?
When you look at the aim of Gahan’s dubious “quality of life” expenditures; the enhanced monetization of government activity for the sake of fundraising; the outsourcing of social media as perpetual campaign fodder; the behind-the-scenes-edict style of “governance” by the appointed, by-passing the elected council unless either a rubber stamp or shared responsibility is needed – all of it adds up to Gahan-as-cabal’s-puppet more so than the mayor as master strategist.
In fact, the mayor seems oblivious to it all, benignly drifting through his term as though unaware that a real world exists outside the bubble he’s allowed himself to be defined and surrounded by. Incredibly, he actually seems to believe he is venerated by the unwashed masses.
This is why our ongoing “mayor as mere hologram” theory isn’t too far off the mark. Undoubtedly, Gahan has been enticed to cooperation by being told that the future payback for (in effect) serving as the appointed Dickey’s elected stand-in is a bright future in statewide politics. Just one more term can he, too, can be Ed Clere or Ron Grooms.
To understand Gahan’s time in office, one first must consider Dickey’s view of himself as latest in a line of best and brightest disciples of the current New Age party line nationally.
He’s attended the seminars, read the e-books and savored the Kool-Aid, and now Gahan is his pet hamster on a spinning wheel, with the overarching notion being the retention of municipal power for the purpose of redistributive largesse, though not to the “little people” formerly comprising the DemoDisneyDixiecratic Party’s bedrock, but rather to whichever segments of the regional economic oligarchy currently are in need of deep greasing beyond what the Republicans already apply before breakfast each morning.
It goes without saying that such a methodology of governance need never be bothered with the demeaning annoyance of standing behind strong principle or stated platform. Vague and amorphous platitudes will do just fine – right, George Orwell?
Gahan’s term as stand-in also makes little sense without acknowledging the centrality of Disney to Dickey. After all, apart from Walt’s fascistic and anti-Semitic leanings, what was he if not a master illusionist? There’s always an impression of what might seem like real life, but only for an instant. When the house lights come on, it’s all revealed to be a trick of the puppeteer — just like the engineering papier-mâché otherwise known as the Main Street “improvement” project.
Remember the Alamo? I’d prefer we just never, ever forget Main Street.
Dickey probably thinks that we, as untutored provincial dullards, can’t ever see past the glimmer and sparkle of his Magic Kingdom, past the underachieving shadows, into the very heart of vapid. He may be right, but I hope not.
Granted, it’s Gahan’s name on the dotted line, and it’s his ultimate responsibility. But you see, Adam’s a bright boy! Gahan remains entirely disposable, while the Machiavellian weaver of intrigue lurks in the gloaming, always the biggest fish in the smallest pond, plotting the next move on the chessboard of self-advancement.
You can’t fool Senator John Blutarsky, because New Albany’s curse is far less the footprint of Gahan’s ambition than Dickey’s.
The good news: At least we can fire ONE of them in November.
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