To say that I'm disappointed is like saying that a rattlesnake bite can itch. This week was full of opportunities for our congressional candidates, Republican Ray Meier and Democrat Michael Arcuri, to raise the level of debate to deal with issues of great importance, not just to our district, but to the entire American nation. What's at stake are matters as basic as whether we get to keep the liberty guaranteed us in the Bill of Rights. The next Congress will either protect that liberty or allow it to be destroyed - so it's important what Ray Meier and Mike Arcuri have to say on the matter.
Unfortunately, the campaigns of Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier aren't talking about these kinds of things. They're talking about opinion polls. They're talking about themselves.
It gets worse than that. Michael Arcuri, Ray Meier, and their supporters in Utica have spent the last few days arguing about a local drug bust, whether it involved pornography, and whether excessive force was used. Those are all important local issues, but they're only relevant to the congressional campaign in as much as both candidates have failed to discuss the larger issues that the United States House of Representatives deals with. Instead of calling us to a higher road, Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier are wallowing in the mud of local politics.
In that mud fight, it appears that Michael Arcuri is losing, and may be doing so through his own alarming political clumsiness, not through any brilliant maneuvers on Ray Meier's part. Less than two months before Election Day now, and Mike Arcuri has chosen to do battle with the NAACP.
Michael Arcuri was recently quoted in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, calling leaders of the NAACP "silly", and saying their complaint of police brutality "doesn't even dignify a response". I've heard rumors that this move will soon be added to the Encyclopedia Brittanica's entry on "political insanity".
First, allegations of police brutality always dignify a response. The proper response is "We take such matters very seriously, and will investigate these allegations thoroughly to ensure that everyone is being treated with the respect that they are due."
Second, the NAACP should be a political ally of the Democrats in this campaign. Michael Arcuri should be working with the NAACP, not against them. There should be no room even for the perception that Michael Arcuri would target black people for prosecution for the sake of political gain.
Third, Michael Arcuri and Ray Meier both need to get their heads out of the local political game, regardless of whatever petty rivalries they've built up with different groups over the years. Our congressional candidates need to work to unite our district with an appeal to our better selves and our higher ideals.
The 24th district ought to be filled with a good debate about issues like Iraq, protection of our constitional liberties, about the democratic process, about protecting Social Security, dealing with global warming, and finding solutions to the energy crisis. Instead, we're getting a contest that looks more like a competition for County Sheriff.
Disappointment doesn't begin to cover my reaction to the way this race has developed.