Jerry Summers: New Smoke-Filled Rooms - And Response

  • Saturday, January 28, 2023
  • Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Since the Hamilton County Mayor and Hamilton County Commission are smoothly working in harmony to protect the interests of the citizens of the fourth largest community in the Volunteer State this article may be outdated.

It has been previously stated by one of our new leaders that we are basically in a new era and the ways of the past are being removed and replaced with new dynamics.

I picked up a copy of the 1982 paperback by the late County Executive Dalton Roberts “Things That Really Matter - The Wit and Philosophy of Dalton Roberts” for the purpose of attempting to visualize the wonderful present and future of the county that has survived the eras of Democrat Roberts and Republican Claude Ramsey, etc.

In the two-page chapter filed as above the late politician, public administrator, musician, and songwriter, etc. gives a 1982 perspective on the subject of political reform now advocated in 2023:

“We’ve all heard about the horror of the smoke-filled room. Close your eyes and you can see it now: a motley crew of your elected officials hiding in a hotel room carving up the political pie, and chomping on cigars, far from the watchful eyes of reporters and decent citizens.

"Yes, it probably was a horror. Sunshine laws requiring public officials to deliberate toward decisions in advertised public meetings were a healthy new direction. But have you noticed how political reform often substitutes a new horror for an old one?

"You see, we still have the smoke-filled rooms. They’re occupied by pollsters, media experts, and direct-mail specialists. Candidates hire them to manipulate you. There may be a crew of them in your town right now with you under their microscope, looking into your loves and hates, checking your political taste buds, and cooking you up a pot of political stew.

"You’ve received some of their letters. You got on their mailing list because somewhere you said or did or became something that indicated you would “bite.” You may have been selected because you are rich and they decided you hated some politically-active group of 'poors.' Or because you are poor and they decided you hated a certain group of 'riches.'

"Remember the salutations? It was 'Dear Republican' or 'Dear Democrat' or 'Dear Friend of Free Enterprise' or 'Dear Friend of the Working Man' or 'Dear Last Hope of The Almost-Extinct Bluetick Whale.' They write the sweetest hate letters you will ever receive! When you write that check and put it in the envelope, they’ve done all their work so well that you feel you have saved mankind from great calamity.

"The TV boys are geniuses. They made Nixon look charming and honest, Carter look decisive, and Reagan look like a kid training for the Olympics! In one state, they took a senator who was partially-paralyzed and barely able to talk and turned him into a vigorous, healthy articulate leader.

"They’ve turned the telephone into an instrument of torture. No matter who you are or where you live, they’ll get you on the phone at least once this year to probe your brain. They even have an automatic phone attached to a computer that dials 24 hours a day, asking questions until the connection is broken. While they’re slurping Scotch and soda in a smoke-filled motel room their computer is raping your privacy.

"They are the modern-day political mercenaries-the 'bag men' in three-piece suits who are making many citizens long for the old days and ways.

"Now that contributions from unions and corporations are illegal, those organizations have put together 'political action committees' into which they funnel millions. And those PAC’s hire the consultants to see who is 'receptive' to their message.

"Those who get reputations for producing winners are able to command huge fees. In one state a highly-regarded consultant was courted by both sides in 12 races!

“ "How do they get so much power?' You’re surely asking. I have nothing but theories to offer. Those theories are: (1) they carry brief-cases, (2) they're 50 miles from home, (3) they look smart and clean, and (4) they talk like a 45 RPM record on 78 RPM speed. Candidates take them seriously, and that may be the bottom line.

"The egos of most politicians won’t allow them to accept the simple fact that times and tides determine most political races. It’s being in the right place at the right time. It’s seldom how well you manipulate public opinion but whether you are in a situation where public opinion carries you to serious consideration by the voters.

"It’s also geography and culture. A George Wallace would never get off the ground in Detroit and Jacob Javits wouldn’t have to worry about being drafted in Mississippi. Ten intelligent citizens with little or no experience in politics could probably predict your chances of winning a political office as accurately as a high-powered consultant.

"In close races, 90 percent of the determining factors concerning the times and tides are known. It’s that 10 percent unknown area that enriches consultants. I even question their ability with that 10 percent area because development beyond their control within the last 48 hours of a campaign can turn their computer into a blithering idiot.

"So, my fellow Americans, choose between these two smoke-filled rooms. Will it be the old-time 'boss' and his boys or the clean-cut lad from Yale unloading his computer down at the Holiday Inn?

"Neither room is a place you’d want your Mama to know you were hanging around. But I’ll take the computer, if I must choose. It generates more jobs, spreads the wealth, and stimulates the economy!”

"The two forerunners(and others) laid the groundwork for what has come in the future!"

(Could the cooperative parties mentioned in the first paragraph adopt a county slogan like Gig City?)

* * *

You can reach Jerry Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com

* * *

Jerry Summers is totally right in allowing us to read or re-read what Dalton Roberts knew.

The back room shenanigans have been around since who knows. It's sad, real sad, that the common person who works hard for his/her family to make a living while putting food on the table, clothing and educating their children, tithing to their church and maybe scraping enough to put away for "the future" doesn't have a snowball chance in Hades to represent their community, to offer well-conceived ideas, to indeed be part of real reform by limiting elected officials of service, retiring all PACs, not allowing candidates to contribute any more to their campaign than a regular contributor and many more absurdities.
 
I know Mr. Summers is quite happy being the gracious local historian that he is and a fine attorney, but it's a shame he never himself ran for public office...maybe he saw what Dalton saw as well...and I applaud him for that.
 
There are so many inconsistencies in our present system of who we elect that it turned me off during the Gubernatorial Pray Election in August 2010. I walked away from it then, became an Independent and don't vote for incumbents who have served more than 12 years. I have written in so many people to do their jobs.
 
I know it's a long shot and maybe a delusion, but it would be nice to have representatives who actually work across the aisle, actually come home each week and get amongst the people often, not just around.d election time.
 
My gratitude to Mr. Summers for being such the person we would want to represent us, at any level.
 
Rick Tucker
Hixson
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