A reader wrote to us, saying:
“Very hard to believe that you are not aware of the scandal going on in New York with Governor Cuomo.
You constantly claim that your paper is not biased, but then something like this happens to just prove you are very left.
The lack of coverage on this situation is very obvious. There are many of us who live in Highlands County that come from New York, and this would definitely be a topic of interest.
I am sure if he was a Republican governor you would’ve been all over it!” –J.
This note, from a reader of our daily newspaper in Highlands County, threw me for a loop. Our daily newspaper had already printed five stories and three opinion pieces about the sexual allegations against Gov. Cuomo.
We don’t sweep news under the rug. The suggestion that we would do so made our editor Romona Washington bristle when I raised J.’s note with her.
Even if we wanted to sweep a national scandal under the rug for the left or right, it’s impossible to do so. Because of the free flow of information on the Internet, any attempt of a small-town newspaper to hide news would easily be revealed to our readers.
I asked J. for clarification. I asked if he felt the same about our coverage of Gavin Newsom – the embattled governor of California. He said no. He was addressing my column personally, not the national news and national opinion columns we carry in our paper.
Our editor, Romona, is vindicated. But me – not so much.
J., I try in this column to tell the readers something new they may not have known before, or old in a new way. To the extent possible, I try not to write about national politics unless I believe it has a bearing on our communities, and I can localize the conversation.
Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Newsom’s situations were not something I believed I could add something new to. I didn’t know how to localize their issues, so I did not write about them. But since you were kind enough to write to me about Cuomo, let me take a shot at localizing their plight — while hopefully telling our readers something as old as time, but in a new way.
When Sen. Bill Nelson was running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, we had the opportunity to interview him in person. We asked him what was wrong with the Democrats in Florida. Democrats used to own this state and now Republicans dominate. We said something like – “It feels like Democrats are irrelevant in Florida.”
Sen. Nelson smiled at our blunt critique and said something that resonated.
He said political life quite often is a pendulum. The party in power often stays in power a long time as the pendulum swings.
Nelson said people who are in power a long time, whether Republicans or Democrats, get cocky, entitled and arrogant. They forget they are public servants. The party with power starts infighting within their family – just like Cain and Abel.
The party out of power sees the arrogance and focuses on a populist message. The out-of-power political party claims they are the public servant standard bearers – unlike those cocky, entitled people in power.
The public servant message resonates with the public who are tired of the political arrogance of the long-time incumbents. The public casts the long-time party of power into the political wilderness. Sen. Nelson said sometimes the pendulum swings slowly, but it almost always eventually swings against the long-time party in power.
I believe Gov. Newsom and Gov. Cuomo are in trouble, in part, because the Democrat party has had control of California and New York too long. That time on top breeds entitlement and arrogance – particularly at the very top.
When I criticize the Republican party in Florida, it is generally at moments I believe they have gotten arrogant and entitled, and forgotten they are public servants.
I do understand expecting elected officials to act like a public servant is a strong bias of mine and perhaps a bit naive.
J., thanks for the note and the opportunity to try and localize a national story. Hopefully I’ve retold the old story about the dangers of the lust for power in a new way.
Share your thoughts.
David Dunn-Rankin is CEO of D-R Media, which owns the Winter Haven Sun, Four Corners News-Sun and Polk News-Sun in Polk County, as well as newspapers in Highlands, Lake and Sumter counties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.