The tactics on display during the trustee election are downright disturbing.
John Replogle ’88 and his campaign team have, from the start of this race, sought to smear the character and accomplishments of Joe Asch ‘79, the petition candidate for trustee. Mr. Replogle has tried to play alumni against each other, availing himself of a brand of politics we know all too well – the politics of fear. With not-so-subtle references to Joe’s articles in The Dartmouth Review, Replogle hopes to prime alumni to paint Joe with the same brush as most do the Review, a tactic as underhanded as it is misleading. (Mr. Replogle has conveniently forgotten Joe’s dozens of articles, letters and interviews in The Dartmouth.)
Mr. Replogle has tried to scare alumni into seeing Joe as both a dangerous reactionary and an overinvested micromanager. In Mr. Replogle’s telling, Joe is – in one breath – both woefully ignorant of how to govern the college and over-informed on the issues that affect her. That his critiques indicate considerable cognitive dissonance seem of little import to Mr. Replogle, whose primary goal of winning has clearly supplanted his desire for anything approaching a fair and open debate.
What’s worse is the remarkably unapologetic bias in The Dartmouth. On the paper’s final day of production for the winter term, the front page bears a story dripping with insinuation and smacking of ulterior motive. With a misleading title suggesting that Joe has attempted to hide aspects of past business dealings, the article’s author intimates that Joe took part in a massive conspiracy to defraud French tax collectors. Then, by parsing quotes given by Joe and his supporters, the author wedges his version of reality into a broader narrative suggesting not-so-subtly that Joe is not qualified to serve on the board.
A real journalist would have painted a far more reasonable portrait for the students and alumni who rely on The Dartmouth for information on everything Big Green. In reality, Joe’s company, which shipped medical utensils to dozens of nations, made the mistake of paying a portion of their taxes to the United States instead of to France. Joe fully cooperated with the tax authorities of both nations, and resolved the issue without further judicial action.
The author of that piece also removed from proper context a paragraph from the endorsement letter I offered on Joe’s behalf. While I did write that, ‘Joe has a professional résumé packed with business experience and financial gravitas that our trustees need — particularly during a time of economic crisis — to help us navigate these hazardous waters,’ The Dartmouth’s reporter failed to point out what followed.
As I wrote next, ‘Those are all details that you can find on his website — and believe me, it’s just a brief sampling of Joe’s experience. But what I in particular feel the need to share is the side of Joe you’re unlikely to find replicated in the pages of The Dartmouth or around the web.’ I then go on to outline my personal relationship with Joe, and the reasons that I will be voting for him as soon as the ballot is available on March 10.
Unfortunately, I have neither the platform nor the time to counter the many examples of disinformation that have been unleashed against Joe over the course of this election. And perhaps I would not be the best person to do so, anyway.
You see, if politics has taught me anything it is this: you are never at your best when you’re angry. Many campaigns have made it second nature for me to take, as a matter of process, attacks against my candidates. It’s like watching members of your favorite football team get tackled – yes, it’s rough, but it’s just part of the game.
What politics does not desensitize you to, though, is watching your friends get sucker punched. I did not enter the trustee race as a political operative; I’m not a part of Joe’s campaign, only offering – as many students, alumni, trustees and professors have – my endorsement. Without the general detachment born of working on the campaign, I am just mad. I am mad at Mr. Replogle for his race-to-the-bottom electioneering. And I am mad at The Dartmouth for playing into that brand of politics by running journalistically misguided stories.
At the outset of this race, I had high hopes for this election. I had immense respect for Mr. Replogle and his professional accomplishments; I just knew Joe, knew his character, and knew that he would make an excellent trustee. Now, I am disenchanted with Mr. Replogle and his campaign.
I still believe that Joe will win, mostly because I have an abiding faith in the ability of Dartmouth alumni to see through the crassly political tactics employed over the past two months. But even with the best possible outcome, the very fabric of our union – those hill-winds that course through all those fortunate enough to share the Dartmouth embrace – has been frayed by petty and crude politicking. Grace and mutual respect must be the guiding lights of our stewardship. Otherwise, we no longer deserve to be vox clamantis in deserto.