That’s what it probably felt like, a gentle, soft pillow slowly but firmly pressing down, and down, and down, and then … done.
That’s how it must have seemed to Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr., as the ballots trickled in like water torture, vote by vote, slowly surpassing, then overwhelming, then crushing the fucking life out of his opposition to the ballot measure that would fund the Palos Verdes Mistakes’ cop shop.
All that sturm, all that drang, all those concerned citizen groups, all those HOAs with a membership of two, all those hundreds of emails, thousands of rants, billions of NextDoor character assassinations, trillions of anonymous Internet troll handles, all of it slowly crushed under the weight of a simple process called “democracy,” where the tiny minority of loud, horrible, obnoxious, and voluble screechers were shouted down by silent little paper slips stuck into a ballot box.
Is there an alternate Urban Dictionary definition for “Ankur” somewhere, one that means “Squashed troll”?
But lest we celebrate too soon, here’s what happened, and what didn’t.
What didn’t happen
Palos Verdes Mistakes didn’t put its police department under new management and vow to roll out a transparent law enforcement agency that would fairly enforce the laws. It simply voted to keep its more expensive but locally controlled police department. It also voted to spend more money to give city employees a good living wage and a good retirement. On a human level, that’s pretty awesome.
However, there was never any question about whether or not the laws would be fairly enforced, whether under LA Sheriff’s Department or under PVE Police Department. The mandate of the Peninsula communities has always been and will always be to keep out blacks, minorities, and the poor, with a few special exceptions. Gardeners, nannies, housekeepers, and construction workers, you know what I mean.
What did happen, Part 1
The good citizens of Palos Verdes Mistakes finally had their say about Robert Chapman and his demagoguery, and they said it with crushing finality. The vote to keep the cop shop and pay more taxes was over 70% for, 29% against. In elections, getting 70% of the vote for anything typically only happens in Louisiana. That’s how disgusted the community was by the anti-Measure E shenanigans.
After being subjected to personal taunts and vile insults of every kind, after being targeted by the infamous PV hate website, abused in endless email tirades, and demeaned in countless interactions with police and public officials, the people of PV refused to cave in to this Trumpian, Hitlerian, Orbanesque style of personal assassination politicking and they repudiated Bob Chapman with a thudding, steel-toed kick to the soft parts. He’ll be groaning about it for years to come. Decades.
This wasn’t even about the police force anymore. It was about the community’s collective revulsion at seeing basically decent people get pilloried, attacked, and reviled by a mini-tyrant for simply doing their job, or for disagreeing, or for exercising their civic rights and their right to free speech.
What did happen, Part 2
Less noble, the folks of Palos Verdes Mistakes behaved predictably, although I didn’t predict it. On a policy level, they voted to keep their police department because their fear of change outweighed their hatred of taxation. PVE was built to keep people out, a sentiment which itself is built on a sentiment of fear–fear of people who are different, fear of people who are poor, fear of people who (you wrongly think) want what you’ve got.
And in repudiating Chapman, PVE confirmed what people have long known about the city, namely that it will always repudiate outsiders, and no one was more of an outsider than Chapman. He belongs to the community as a resident, but not as a member. Whether it’s the exclusive privilege to surf with the graying kooks at Lunada Bay, the privilege to serve on city council, or the privilege to mix and socialize, Chapman has always been held at arms-length no matter how rabidly he carries the exclusionary banner of “Keep ’em out!” as he tries to out-PVE the PVE locals themselves.
I once lived in a small town where in order to be considered local, you had to have grandparents in the cemetery. Everyone else was an interloper and treated accordingly.
Seventy percent of the vote? That’s a message even Bob Chapman may understand.
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