• Julia Coates

Mudslinging-We are better than this

‘Siyo nigadv,

Many people have received their ballots and are considering their choices. As candidates are wrapping up their campaigns or considering potential runoffs, I wanted to offer some comments about political mudslinging.


I have been complimented by various individuals associated with each of the campaigns for Principal Chief on the “clean” campaign that I have conducted. I am running on my record of real achievements, and I offer specific and concrete possibilities for the future. Even when the incumbent candidate violated our Election Code and I was given evidence of it before it had become public, I forwarded that evidence to a tribal attorney, feeling that it was unseemly for an opponent who could benefit from this kind of information to be the one making it known. I did send a blog to you informing you of what was going on and explaining why it was illegal under our laws, but I did so while keeping it on a professional and legal level. And ultimately, that candidate was disqualified for exactly the reasons I had stated to you.


But there has been some mudslinging going on. And that’s why I write today...


IN DEFENSE OF DAVID WALKINGSTICK, POINT ONE: MEREDITH FRAILEY THINKS HE’S A GOOD GUY

I have served on the Tribal Council alongside both David Walkingstick and his running mate, Meredith Frailey. Ms. Frailey, who is the former Speaker of the Tribal Council, is above reproach in everyone’s eyes and has a long political career of great integrity. She is currently serving as County Commissioner for Mayes County, a position she earned by gaining the majority of the overall vote (not just among Cherokees) in that county. She is highly respected on all sides by those who know her.


Do we really believe that Ms. Frailey would agree to be the running mate of someone who is being painted as unethical and disengaged as Mr. Walkingstick is? There is just no way she would stand with him if he was really the person these vicious mailings have portrayed him to be. The fact that Meredith agreed to run with David should be enough testament for any of us of the level of David’s character.


IN DEFENSE OF DAVID WALKINGSTICK, POINT TWO: COMPARED TO WHAT?

I also don’t recognize the David Walkingstick that these mailings have created. David was not absent nor late any more than any other councilor, so those charges are taken out of context. And as a professor, if a student turned in a purported statistical analysis to me consisting only of percentages on vague categories such as “did not participate,” I would definitely ask what criteria was being used to arrive at that conclusion, and how the data measured in comparison to other councilors (things the Cherokee Phoenix apparently failed to do while nonetheless affirming the charges). We haven’t been given any criteria for that assessment, and so I have no idea what “did not participate” means, but it is clearly the category that is dragging down the percentages overall. So we need to know before we accept the assertions. We all need to be strong critical thinkers and ask questions when presented with mudslinging.


IN DEFENSE OF DAVID WALKINGSTICK, POINT THREE: THE DOUBLE WHAMMY

Mudslinging works because it presents accusations that have a complex set of facts behind them as simple “truths.” The circumstances behind David’s resignation from Muskogee Public Schools are also very complicated. It involved dynamics of race and sovereignty that the Public School District didn’t fully comprehend, and that most of us don’t fully comprehend and certainly don’t agree on. It is reprehensible that people’s employment in northeastern Oklahoma can be threatened because of internal power blocs in tribal politics. I know firsthand what it’s like to be on the receiving end, and now David Walkingstick does as well. So now he’s experiencing the double whammy in that he’s being accused by that same power bloc of resigning something that he was essentially maneuvered by them into having to resign.

And the disrespectful goofy memes and slogans were salt in the wound as well, I’m sure.

WHY DO CAMPAIGNS ENGAGE IN MUDSLINGING? ONE WORD: FEAR

When campaigns present complex issues as simple statements, they are very cynically playing on our lack of information. Don’t buy into it. Ask instead, what is the reason for the attack? What does that campaign have to fear?

The apparent fear was early polling that indicated a close race, closer than it should have been given the differences in resources between the campaigns. David had $50,000. At the other end of the spectrum was the campaign with over $1 million. And so the monied campaign reacted.


WHY DO CAMPAIGNS ENGAGE IN MUDSLINGING? SECOND WORD(S): IT WORKS

I have served on the Tribal Council with both Meredith Frailey and David Walkingstick and they are both very principled, ethical people. They don’t have the resources to respond to the mudslinging. It’s really unfortunate that once again, our political discourse has gone to this place. I’m disgusted with it and know that if David and Meredith were to win their races, it would raise the level of informed political discourse and ethical governance about 1000%.


We are better people than this, but in order to be better people, it has to start with each of us individually. Please reject the mudslinging. Just put it aside and make your choices based on other considerations.


Wado.

Julia

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© 2019 by Julia Coates for Cherokee At-Large Tribal Council