The names people use to describe themselves during political campaigns are interesting to me. Sometimes it’s easy to know if the self-descriptions are true, such as when someone tells you their political affiliation. Other times, it’s not so simple because names can be used to create an image that doesn’t actually exist. If the names are not accurate, then the assumptions that follow will not be accurate either.
This is not a new idea and really smart people have been writing about it for centuries. Confucius said, “If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things.” And Thomas Fuller said, “A name is a kind of face whereby one is known; wherefore taking a false name is a kind of visard whereby men disguise themselves.”
Both those quotes got me thinking about the name that mayoral candidate, Carl DeMaio, has called himself since he rolled into town — “taxpayer watchdog.” I wondered if he still used it, so I looked at his mayoral website and there it was in big capital letters above his biography: “Carl DeMaio: San Diego’s Taxpayer Watchdog.”
While on the website, I saw that a virtual Carl was inviting me to type in questions and he would answer them. I typed in the question: Do you support raising taxes? The answer from virtual Carl: “We actually did not anticipate that question.” What? I tried again and got the same response. So I typed in a silly question just to make sure that virtual Carl was working. I asked, “What is your favorite color?” and virtual Carl responded, blue. Real Carl’s favorite color is blue.
Virtual Carl anticipated that question, but didn’t anticipate someone asking a question about the real Carl raising taxes? But then it dawned on me; the virtual Carl wouldn’t answer the question because the real Carl didn’t want him to. The real Carl hadn’t lived up to his “taxpayer watchdog” name and had voted twice in the past few months to support raising tourist taxes by more than $2 billion to promote hotels and expand the Convention Center. That’s the largest combined tourist tax increase since the tourist tax began.
Worse, there was no public vote and none of the money from the tourist tax increases will go to the general fund to help fix our roads and potholes, build neighborhood parks or improve our neighborhood services. Only the hotel owners were allowed to vote on raising the tax paid by people staying in San Diego hotels, not the public.
So it’s no wonder virtual Carl didn’t want to answer the question, because the name the real Carl uses is nothing more than a political illusion. Carl the “taxpayer watchdog” doesn’t exist any more than the virtual Carl exists. And to paraphrase Elias Canetti, “The people have but to know the real Carl for him to lose his virtual name.”
Donna Frye is a former San Diego City Councilwoman.
Want to contribute to discussion? Submit a suggestion to Fix San Diego.