As a Maricopa County Supervisor, Bill Gates has been one of the steadiest rocks of local governance for years. He recently announced that he won’t be seeking re-election. While he certainly has earned more free time for himself, there is something larger and more insidious at play. It is an event where I am less prone to celebrating his service as I am to regret that current state of our politics and conversation.
Gates has announced that he is not seeking another term because of threats to him and his family as a result of the many conspiracy theories that have befallen our elections system. While lobbing any threats at any elected officials is the action of a horrible person, regardless of which side of the aisle they are on, it is the nature of these ones that are particularly bad.
These elections were not perfect; they never are. The intricacies of running an election in a county of over four million people make that goal impossible. Additionally, they were operating under a relatively new system where after County Recorder Adrian Fontes ceded control of in-person voting to the Supervisors, they had to ramp up a new learning curve. It was never going to be easy, but Gates led the charge with transparency and grace.
But these days when you don’t get the result you want, it’s the fault of the system and the people who operate it, not a result of the majority of voters rejecting a certain message. And for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of voters in the area, they are willing to believe that Republicans conspired to place Democrats in power, something which to any informed and experienced observer would be stupid beyond magnitude.
So I can certainly understand Gates’s desire to exit the political arena: if so many people are willing to believe that a lifelong conservative was willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to help elect Democrats, words have no meaning anymore. There is no point even trying anymore when doing the right thing will be completely undone because of a mean social media post from a former President. While politics was rarely the ideal place for men and women of honor in the past, there is clearly zero room for that at the moment.
We would love to approach the de facto retirement announcement with unreserved congratulations and laudatory prose, and Gates has largely earned that during his time in public service. But we can’t help but look at this as a result of a completely broken political system with the most perverted of intentions, and a decent person deciding that they can’t deal with it anymore. And that doesn’t deserve our congratulations, but instead our grief.