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BILL CRAWFORD — The impersonator grabs the spotlight

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Bill Crawford

Uh oh, former state senator Tim Johnson and Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef have turned the public spotlight on an ugly thing politicians like to keep under the rug.  

 
Johnson is a successful impersonator, mostly of Elvis Presley. Nosef suggests Johnson also impersonated being a Republican. Over a 20-year period Johnson was elected as a City of Madison alderman, state senator, and Madison County supervisor – all as a Republican. Then, on February 4th, Johnson transfigured himself, announcing he will run for lieutenant governor as a Democrat.
 
“I guess this begs the question of whether he’s really been a Republican all these years or just a Republican impersonator,” Nosef told the Associated Press.
 
Say it ain’t so, Joe! There are politicians who impersonate their commitment to party, platform, or issues!?! 
 
But wait.  What about all those state senators and representatives and city and county officials who converted from Democrat to Republican over the last several years?  Were they impersonating Democrats before they changed?  Or, are they now impersonating Republicans?
 
Has Johnson really changed? Or is he now impersonating a Democrat?
 
All this gets to that ugly thing – politicians who are willing to say and do whatever it takes to get elected, stay elected, and move up in power. The issue changes, they change. The electorate shifts, they shift. The opportunity to win requires a change, they change. 
 
This is the down and dirty side of politics they don’t want spotlighted.
 
So, how is a voter to know if a politician is real or just an impersonator?
 
It’s hard.  Look at NBC news anchor Brian Williams.  He worked so hard impersonating a journalist with high integrity that his prime time show came to dominate other broadcasts. Then his untruths were outed and he was too (at least for six months). How was a general viewer to know Williams was an impersonator?
 
Fact is, voters should take all politicians (and TV journalists) with a grain of salt. After all, how many times have you seen them proven to be impersonators? Think and you can name several who were outed for impersonating moral leadership while secretly committing immoral acts, impersonating truth-telling when later found to be lying through their teeth, or impersonating honesty while later indicted for thievery. 
 
This is not to say that all politicians’ changes are due to ugly things. Johnson suggests that conservative Republicans, driven to the right by Tea Party activism, left behind moderate Republicans, in effect pushing them out of the party or into the Democratic Party. Johnson will have to prove this based on his prior record, but it could be true. 
 
Still and all, it would be enlightening if Johnson were to adopt the moniker Nosef has given him and run a Schwarzenegger-esque campaign as his real self, “the impersonator.” 
 
» Bill Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Meridian (crawfolk@gmail.com)

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