Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's Going On With Political Campaigns?

I don't know about the rest of you, but in this election year I'm sick and tired of all the political mud slinging.

Issues and what a candidate wants to accomplish seem to have taken a backseat with personal attacks on the opponent seemingly the order of the day where political campaigns are concerned.

Like many of the states, we're having primary elections in August to determine which candidate will represent his/her party in November in the general election. Even though it's not a presidential election year, many senators and representatives will be elected to the U.S. Congress and also various senate and representative elections to state legislatures and state governor elections.

I've been suffering through a constant barrage of tasteless political commercials literally from the first of the year. We have two particularly vicious campaigns going on where I live. One is for an open U.S. Senate seat (the current holder of the seat is running for governor rather than seeking re-election to the Senate) with two U.S. Representatives from the same party (one of them from my district) vying to be their party's November candidate for that Senate seat. And in the other race we have two local people from the same party vying to be their party's candidate for that U.S. Representative seat from my district that will be vacated because the current holder is running for the U.S. Senate.

Vicious attacks. Mud slinging. Half truths. Outright lies. Blatant manipulation of the voter through the use of emotional buzz words. Claims that are literally an insult to the intelligence of the voter. Statements where you shake your head and wonder why in the world the candidate thought anyone would possibly believe that.

One commercial that started airing a week ago was so ludicrous that the candidate's opponent (the object of the attack) called a press conference to refute the charges rather than striking back with another attack commercial of his own which resulted in a couple of the local television stations sending news people to the candidate making the charges to ask for confirmation of the accusations. The candidate was only able to produce a couple of several year old documents and they showed the validity of his accusations to be only about 10% accurate with 90% of his accusations filled with blatantly misleading innuendo devoid of any factual backup.

It also prompted at least two of the local television stations (one being the local newscast that I watch) to make an on-air statement saying that it's literally illegal for television stations to censor, alter, or refuse commercials from a legally registered political candidate in an upcoming election even if the language or images are considered objectionable (but not legally banned from the airwaves). The only discretion they have is in refusing ads from third parties not produced with the candidate's specific approval. Thus the tag line on political commercials these days that says, "I'm so-and-so and I approve this message." So, that specific commercial is unfortunately still on the air since it was approved by the candidate.

What has happened that the issues are no longer important in a political election? I can understand with two candidates from the same party in the August primary election where one is the incumbent and the other is a newcomer hoping to win the party candidacy for the general election that the newcomer will be attacking the record of the incumbent as a way of saying, "I can do it better." And certainly in the general election in November where you have candidates from opposing parties, they will have opposing positions on the issues and each will be trying to sell his/her view of what is best. But political campaigns where it seems that the entire commercial budget is used for mud slinging personal attacks?

With two candidates from the same party (therefore supposedly the same basic position on the issues of the day) where neither currently holds an elected office, they each seem to believe that the only way to run a campaign is to make personal negative attacks on their opponent rather than putting forth positive information about themselves.

I know "they" say that politics is a dirty business, but does it really need to be muddy dirty?

Now, let me share a little something personal with you. My brother is an elected representative in his state's Legislature. He is up for re-election this year for his fifth term and this time he's running unopposed. No challenge from a member of his own party for a primary runoff and no one from the other party registered to run for his seat which means he won't have an opponent in the November general election. Thus, he will be re-elected.

He has, on more than one occasion, refused assistance from his own party in the form of campaign commercials because of the type of commercial they wanted to do…the half truth/innuendo type of personal attack on his opponent. My brother and I are not of the same political party. However, my brother is one of the rare ones from either party who tries to put a positive face on politics. As a seasoned veteran of the system, he's not coming from the perspective of the na├»ve newcomer. He understands the ins and outs of the system but still continues to run a clean campaign and not sacrifice his ethics. He actually listens to his constituents and tries his best to represent what they want rather than merely pushing his own personal beliefs and agenda on various issues in the Legislature.

I keep asking him if he has any plans to run for national office rather than state. His answer is to not give me an answer. :)


Barbara Edwards said...

I agree about the name-calling, mud-slinging making me angry. As soon as a candidate goes on attack, I put their name in the 'don't vote for' column. If they can't say what they stand for, then it can't be much. I also avoid making comments in most public forums. I don't want to argue. I want facts so I can make a reasonable decision.

Samantha Gentry said...

Barbara: "I want facts so I can make a reasonable decision." Yes...same here!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Anonymous said...

I get so tired of phone calls, too. As for "this year." The mud-slinging has been going on for a lot longer than that. If our representatives, national, state, and local, would stop campaigning constantly and do the job they were elected to do, we might not be in this pickle today. And I wish we would stop the mind-set of politicians who think they are "entitled" to a career at our expense rather than doing the job for a few years then going back into public life to make a living.

And don'tcha wonder if a politician who holds an office for one term, runs for another office and wins, if he gets a pension from the first as he is paid for the second?

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that this mudslinging may be a symptom of a belief by the candidates that the voters have given up and no longer care about the issues. I sure hope that's it, because the other possibility is that they think the voters are too stupid.

Samantha Gentry said...

Anonymous: Yes, the mud slinging has been going on for quite a while, but it seems to be particularly vicious this least where I live.

As to elected officials getting pensions...I can't speak for all states and don't know for a fact about federal, but in my brother's state he has to serve ten years before he's eligible for any type of a state pension so one term certainly doesn't get him anything other than his paycheck for the portion of the year the legislature is in session.

Samantha Gentry said...

Anonymous: I see you posted another comment at the same time as I was responding to your first one. :)

Thinking the voters don't care or thinking the voters are too stupid...those are both scary possibilities.

Lelani Black said...

I'm so impressed that you and your brother value being a family than allow politics to divide your relationship. So many values and goals become diluted in the pursuit of political seats, and political causes. In a long car ride last month with my husband, he had a political commentator on the radio who was literally making me want to roll down my window and leap out of a moving vehicle going 75 miles per hour. So instead, I told my husband if I have to listen to this, then I'm going to tell him (my husband) why I disagree with what this person is saying based on what I know growing up, and how things work from the other side! Amazingly, my husband listened to what I had to say, admitted he did not realize the view from that end of the spectrum, and while I didn't expect to change his mind about what he thinks is true, I was able to combat the "slant" being spouted off by a commentator who may have meant well, but did not have the boots on the ground facts. Politics seems to take on this type of combativeness, spending so much time, resources and money having to prove what is true, sadly.

Samantha Gentry said...

Hi, Lelani. Yes, my brother and I get along very well in spite of our political differences. Politics is one of those intangibles...mostly personal opinion on both sides where the facts get slanted one way or the other with a lot of theory and opinion extrapolated from those few facts. That's what makes it such a hot button topic.

Thanks for stopping by.

M. S. Spencer, Author said...

Samantha, you should be extremely proud of your brother. I too come from a family that was divided along party lines but we were taught to respect the other person no matter how wrong-headed he was (jk)--what is lost today is just that: a belief that the person who disagrees with you just has a different point of view. Nowadays if you disagree you're a hate group or racist or just plain evil. You can't work together for the good of the country if you don't trust that your opponent has the same goal, merely a different idea of the correct path to that goal. People now seem to react emotionally rather than intellectually to debate--I find myself repeating "Sticks and stones..." way too often while watching the news about someone who is offended by say, the other guy's taste in ice cream.

Samantha Gentry said...

M.S.: That's what I occasionally tell my brother, that I'll fight to the death for his right to his opinion...regardless of how wrong that opinion is. LOL

Respect and tolerance are both very important in any endeavor, whether political or something less controversial.

April Ash said...

I'd like to see a "only commercial ads about the candidate himself, and no mudslinging at other candidates" rule.
Let each politician tell us his/her own values/ideas. People can "see through" bulls**t and figure out who they want.
This will eliminate the "dirty politics" ads.

Samantha Gentry said...

April: That's a good idea. Now if we could just figure out how to make that the criteria for political commercials so that everyone was required to stick with it.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Samantha, I totally agree. Mud slinging turns me off and raises questions about the side throwing the mud. Our current governor's race is slinging a lot of my at the opponent. He's not slinging mud back so far, so you know who I'll vote for.

If your brother decides to run for national office, let us know!

Samantha Gentry said...

Caroline: The two races here that are so vicious are primaries with the election next week so it's members of the same party slinging mud at each other as fast and furious as they can. I would put my dog's name as a write-in candidate before voting for any of them, but since that's not the party where I'm registered, I can't vote in their primary anyway. :) In both of the primary races the adversaries are tied in the polls. Maybe they'll cancel each other out in both races and a third candidate will win the primary.

Yep, I'll definitely be glad when the primary electrions are over!