Is it November yet?
Minor MusingsI don't know about you, but I'm already sick to death of negative political smear ads from candidates in the 2010 elections. In 2008 we heard such hateful tirades I thought it couldn't possibly get worse. Hah! Silly me.
Published: July 18, 2010
Published: July 18, 2010
Daily, we are subjected to a constant barrage of accusations, many of which don't even make sense. And considering that it's only July, and this is still the primaries, I'm sure we've really only seen the opening volleys in this spitting contest. What bilious venom has yet to be spewed?
I'd like to ask all the candidates why it's so much easier to trash your opponent than to address the issues facing our state and nation. At a time when our backs are to the wall on so many difficult challenges, why can't you see that the people want to hear what you propose to do, not what a villain you think your opponent is? Maybe someone should make a law against mud ads.
Ah, but then I remember ...
When I was in high school there was an election for Student Council officers in which one of my friends ran for treasurer. Her name was Toni so her campaign slogan became, "Don't be a phony, vote for Toni." It was a catchy and harmless little rhyme till a reporter for the school newspaper challenged Toni to tell him what it meant. Was she inferring that her opponent and his supporters were phonies? Did she think they had something to hide? Little did the reporter know his question would touch off a war of words like our school had never seen. The campaign, which till then had been fun and friendly, suddenly became totally toxic.
Toni lashed out at her opponent, the current treasurer, who she knew had mismanaged the Senior Prom Fund. It triggered an investigation by the principal that eventually got even the school board involved. Parents and teachers took sides and the mudslinging got totally out of hand.
Soon posters covered the school halls accusing Toni, a straight A student, of cheating on exams and trading favors for grades. Toni's reputation was trashed by totally false accusations, and it escalated from there. Finally, when the story made the news on local TV, the school principal took action disqualifying both candidates and declaring a new election. In response, the school board instituted new rules for student elections prohibiting "negative campaigning."
Most people thought it was a good solution, and the new election, with candidates talking all nicey-nice, went off without a hitch. Slowly things at the school returned to normal, until the students who were elected began abusing their positions and the Student Council could get nothing done that whole year. When the time for new elections finally rolled around, students were anxious to vote the do-nothings out.
That's when the stink birds came home to roost - corruption and misconduct were free to run rampant and the perpetrators free to be reelected, because now it was "illegal" to expose them.
This was, of course, just a high school thing, hardly earth shaking. But it was a microcosm of what can happen in any society when we agree to limit free speech. We are in essence agreeing to quash opposition, and we are handing the incumbents carte blanche for abuse of power.
As distasteful as it may be, negative campaigning must be allowed and tolerated in a free society, because sometimes the mud bath is deserved. Likewise, genuine discussion of the issues must be constantly encouraged by an electorate free to listen or tune it all out.
I'm sure the people of Cuba or Venezuela or Iran would be happy to trade places with any American not willing to put up with the din of free elections. As Plato said, "Democracy is a very bad form of government. But all the others are so much worse."