By Kathi Bliss
I always find “politics as usual” to be upsetting, and from what I hear out there in the world, most people agree with me – particularly when those “politics” include negative, mudslinging campaigning.
I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard the statement, “All these negative ads are the reason I hate elections! I wish they’d just talk about the issues, because I don’t care about all of that.”
You’ve heard it, too, haven’t you?
So the question then becomes, if we all dislike the negative campaigning so much, why is it still happening? Politicians, especially at the national level, have armies of analysts and statisticians to tell them what the people respond to and what they don’t. And every election season, these negative tactics come up; they get uglier and uglier as the years go by. But it keeps happening.
I have to believe it’s because at some level, we keep responding to it – even if we say we hate it. There is no way President Obama’s camp, nor Mr. Romney’s, would be behaving the way they have been these last several weeks if they didn’t have some reason to believe that slinging mud was going to help them win the election.
All talk about balanced budgets and cutting spending and “we the people,” to one side, the single most common lie politicians tell us is, “we want to run a clean campaign.” With extremely limited exception, telling us that they want to run a clean campaign is the very first campaign promise a politician will make; it’s also the first promise they’re going to break.
It’s disgusting, and it seems as though it gets worse every year.
One of the thing that disturbs me most about this process is the fact that so many people I sometimes think these negative ads are effective because of the climate in which we live, politically and socially. We have completely lost sight of any sense of honor or decorum. We no longer care who we hurt or how we hurt them, as long as we get what we want.
We’ve decided that the ends always, always justify the means. When the truth of the matter is, they probably don’t.
After all, these negative campaigns don’t only hurt the people running for office. They have an impact that we will probably never understand on the spouses, the children, the friends and families of the people running for office. People who have nothing to do with the elections are dragged into the crossfire and used as political capital, without any regard in the world for how they might feel about it.
Again, it’s disgusting.
Over and over again, people at all points on the political spectrum clamor and scream that we expect more out of our elected officials. But if we expect more of them, then perhaps shouldn’t we also expect more from ourselves? If we’re going to put them into office on the promise that they will do better for us than those who came before, shouldn’t we ask them to do better than those who came before to GET into office?
If they are willing to break promises before they even get elected, what makes us think they will keep their other promises after we put them in office?
We should demand better, and I can’t understand why we don’t.
Editor’s note: This column was written in response to the political climate surrounding the upcoming Presidential election. However, it also becomes relevant locally this week, in light of the letter circulating in connected with the Precinct One Commissioner’s Runoff race. Though it is not normally our policy to address such things, the Editorial Board at the Post-Register decided this week that the situation does bear mentioning. Therefore, we offer the reminder that paid political advertising that appears in the Post-Register does not reflect the opinions or attitudes of our management, staff or the Post-Register. This publication does not, and historically has not, offered public or private campaign endorsements – nor will we. Our only official position is that we will take no position on those incendiary comments, and that we’d hoped we live in a community where people understood the hurtful impact of such tactics, for everyone involved.