Since November the United States has been battling the Big Lie–the pandemic-like fabrication of a stolen election that’s turned a shocking majority of Republicans into tinfoil-hatted charlatans forswearing IQ for QAnon.
Little Old Flagler County has been dealing with three Big Lies, not just the one, though the three share the same intellectual QNA. Flagler’s own Big Lie was that Palm Coast was ready for suicide by embracing the mayorship of the hyper-toxic Alan Lowe, an off-and-on citizen who’d never voted until his sixth decade and who’s spent a career as a Music Man of his own inventions. The third lie, kissing-cousin of the second, was that former mayor Milisa Holland was a Lady Macbeth of corruption, manipulation and criminality, and that the Ethics Commission complaint looming over her like the sword of Damocles would cut her to pieces and off her to prison.
Well, it turns out that both Big Lies unraveled for what they were all along this week, with David Alfin winning the special election for mayor and the Ethics Commission tossing out six of seven claims against Holland. It held on to one we all knew about and condemned long ago for its stupidity but also its pettiness: Holland’s misuse of her city account in two or three emails, out of seven trillion, that solicited work for her private employer. The commission is right to fine Holland, but the way a cop would be in the right to fine a jaywalker. No more.
And no more of these lies and slanders about the best mayor Palm Coast has had in its 20 years. Her predecessors made the swales run on time but the city never brimmed so much as cruised on their watch, largely through growth out of their control (before the bust, anyway), while Jon Netts’s latter years were marred by a loyalty to a city manager that at times edged past his loyalty to the city. Holland was the reverse. People could get bruised on her path. Her sights were set on the city more collectively than on its particulars (ask Matt Morton). No doubt she could be overbearing, meddlesome and thin-skinned. But that describes every high-achieving politico from here to Helen of Troy. Holland’s fate was to be a woman in a county still hung up on cavemen mentalities, compounding the cabal’s perverted desires to demolish her.
It almost worked, thanks to those three bales of lies: Alan Lowe, his BFF Ed Danko, and their punching bag Victor Barbosa, master of the own goal. That they imagined that Palm Coast was craving their three-ring circus gives you an idea of how disconnected they are from the city they claim to represent. That they chose Lowe as their second coming tells you to what extent their political instincts are as amateurish as their governance.
But we knew that from watching their not-ready-for-prime-time skits every two weeks on the city council. These people aren’t interested in doing their homework as councilmen. You can tell they don’t read their meeting materials. It’s all ideology to them, the Fox-OAN-talking points overlaid on Palm Coast, though one has nothing to do with the other. Danko wasn’t even interested in attending a budget workshop Tuesday, harassing what few voters cast ballots at the library instead.
Ideology isn’t governing. It’s not even politics. It’s fanaticism. It’s what blinded these individuals to their immorality as they spread lies about Holland and her daughter, as Danko went door-to-door playing McCarthy-in-Wheeling while the other two made sure not to impede the slanders.
As the muezzin of the most defaming lie–that Holland resigned to avoid criminal charges resulting from the Ethics Commission investigation–it’s now Danko’s responsibility to reveal from the same public dais who gave him that “confidential senior law enforcement” briefing. If he doesn’t, he’s covering up for a law enforcement officer who lies. And if, as is more likely, there is no such law enforcement officer and there was no such briefing (as the governor’s office itself has already made clear) then Danko, already under investigation for malfeasance, is the liar. There are no two ways about it.
He has no credibility and apparently no morals. But he remains the ringmaster of this shitshow, some of whose partisans are signaling vague if meaningless disputes of the results, if not more disturbing intimations of insurrection at the council’s chambers. So Palm Coast survived the election, but it must still contain the hurls of these incendiaries. On the other, more reassuring hand, the Q-tipped partisans and their big lies bring to mind the most famous lines in Macbeth, adapted here for the occasion:
[Danko/Lowe/Barbosa] is but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. [His] is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Palm Coast isn’t out of the woods. Lowe may have been rejected by 73 percent of the electorate, but Alfin’s 36 percent win, with less than 10 percent of the actual electorate, is hardly a rousing victory for an uninspiring campaign that won more by default than acclamation. Alfin’s work is cut-out for him. No one expects him, a rookie in elected office, to be Holland. And anyway the closest thing to that on today’s council is Nick Klufas, whose geekiness masks the sharpest mind on local boards (as long as he doesn’t start making Faustian deals as he sets his sights on the county commission). Klufas needs to be the Alfin whisperer. Alfin should understand considering that he starts every morning doing chores in his horses’ stable.
Alfin himself has always been more interesting and genuine in person than as a campaigner. His challenge is to bring his humanity–and please, the courage of convictions–to the task and leave the campaign’s robot behind. He saved the city Tuesday. But to quote that other line from Macbeth, there’s still tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.