On Politics: ‘Better angel’ way to deal with Incline Village political strife (opinion)
A couple of weeks ago my column dealt with a brief history of Incline Village and how our community’s political divide pretty much dated back to 1965 when recreation was added to the Incline Village General Improvement District charter.
Some residents were excited when the beaches, golf courses and ski hill were purchased because they attracted tourists (which I whimsically dubbed “the Coney Island effect”); others just wanted a quiet little paradise with lots of available parking and no lines at restaurants or grocery stores (dubbed the “Sleepy Hollow effect”).
For ease of comprehension I identified Coney Island adherents as “Hatfields” and Sleepy Hollow supporters as “McCoys”.
As IVGID trustees and staff have looked at improving the existing stock of recreation venues and considered expanding their scope, the McCoys circled their wagons and began launching outright verbal and legal attacks on the Hatfields and Hatfield-leaning trustees and staffers.
Their weapons have included filibusters at trustee meetings, accounting arguments, ethics complaints, meritless law suits, demands for documents, almost anything calculated to vex and annoy those in the saddle who know they cannot abridge the McCoys’ First Amendment rights.
So far IVGID’s only effective counter weapon has been a court action to recover costs of defending frivolous law suits, in which the Nevada Supreme Court awarded IVGID a large judgment against one of the McCoys. That just made them madder. So if you attend an IVGID Board of Trustees meeting in person or watch online you will think the “swamp” moved from Washington D.C. and settled here in the Sierra.
Do we really need to spoil our beautiful environment with all this invective punctuated by insults? In my last column I introduced a national volunteer organization called Better Angels formed to foster bipartisan discussion to the exclusion of name-calling and one-way conversations. The name derives from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address in which he was trying to pacify southern states alarmed over his election by appealing to the “better angels of their nature” not to secede from the union.
Regrettably the following month Confederate troops captured Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor ushering in four years of bloody warfare.
Throughout that costliest war in our history, Lincoln never lost hope of reconciliation with the South. As late as the spring of 1865, with Grant and Sherman poised to drop a final hammer, Lincoln secretly met with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens to try to effect a truce before Easter.
Lincoln’s plan to readmit the southern states to the union was generous and non-retaliatory, but barely a week after Lee’s surrender John Wilkes Booth’s pistol took him from us. The post-assassination Congress was riddled with “radical Republicans” who wanted to exact vengeance on the South. They impeached Lincoln’s running mate, now President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat who tried to carry out Lincoln’s wishes for southern readmission. Radical Republicans disenfranchised former Confederates and stationed federal troops throughout the South.
That spawned formation of the Ku Klux Klan and years of political and racial strife. Is that the kind of poisoned atmosphere we want for Incline Village/Crystal Bay? Is there another way?
Here’s the Better Angels way: If you’re a Hatfield find five or six other Hatfields who are tired of constant strife and bickering. Recruit a McCoy who also is seeking a peaceful existence and have him/her recruit five or six other McCoys.
Agree on ground rules including no interrupting, no ad hominem attacks and no slurs; find a quiet place to meet, adopt a simple local issue discussion agenda and allot an equal time to hear each member’s views.
Now, didn’t that feel better than just screaming? Come on. Do it. “Honest Abe” would be proud of you (www.better-angels.org).
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada State GOP Central committees. He can be reached at email@example.com.