Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 27 July 2010 15:41
Mid-term election campaign rhetoric is at a fevered pitch these days, even when compared to past campaigns. Mud-slinging via negative ads on television run without interruption and will not let up until the last poll closes on election day.
Congressional candidate Wink Hartman, even though he declares in an ad that he has signed a pledge to stop running negative ads against his opponent, promptly launches into a diatribe denouncing Michael Pompeo’s business activity and moral character.
Apparently, Hartman’s pledge wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
Closer to home, it doesn’t get any better. Consider the latest rhetoric from a candidate for Congress. Without naming names or party affiliation, I don’t doubt readers will recognize who the candidate is. In the television commercial, the candidate says, “I’m going to stick it to (them).”
Does this candidate realize what these words mean?
Considering the way the campaign has been conducted up until now, I suspect speech writers are overwhelmed in the heat of the moment and are not thinking straight. The campaign manager is too busy scheduling the next meeting or photo op and cannot take a step back and effectively manage his staff.
Does the candidate really intend to be this barbaric and sadistic? What does that say about this candidate’s alleged “good family values?”
Unfortunately, once the words get out, they’re impossible to take back.
Recently, another candidate for Congress raised questions about the legitimacy of President Obama’s citizenship, which prompted two Kansas newspapers to withdraw their endorsement.
Chalk this one up to lack of experience, lack of focus and an overzealous staff wanting to please the boss.
To date, my tally of candidates that have resisted exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses through negative campaigning can be counted on one hand. That’s including candidates for state offices as well. Again, I’m intentionally vague and will leave it up to the reader to figure out who they are.
Political gamesmanship isn’t a new phenomenon. We should not be surprised of these tactics as the heat of the battle rages on before the polls close. One can be disappointed, fed up with the dirty business and blame the politicians for their poor behavior. Out of anger, one can choose to stay away from the polls, but that is not a good option for a responsible citizen.
A better option is to uncover the facts behind each candidate’s claims and make an informed decision based on that knowledge.
As good as that option might seem, negative campaigning is proven effective and candidates that do not resort to using this offensive tactic—no pun intended—suffer in the polls.
It’s “art” imitating real life at home, only in politics, the shameless publicity is difficult to ignore, even from a distance.
This (real life at home) is the essence of “Basic Mudslinging 101.” Nearly every day of the week, someone is a victim of another’s misperception of the “truth.” Any gathering place where peers come together has the potential for its own version of mudslinging.
Imagine this setting in a coffee shop; an individual discloses a juicy tidbit about another individual. Those who listen have a choice to make. They may choose to remain uncomfortably silent, even though they listen to every detail. More often than not, they memorize all or part of this version, retain it as the gospel truth and may pass it along to other friends.
This is character assassination without the victim even being present at the murder. It’s dissemination of allegedly truthful information completes the dirty work while the perpetrator remains hidden from the victim. The recipients of this “truth” telling becoming unwitting partners in the “crime.”
There’s even an irony to effective mudslinging. Anyone, even those whose personal beliefs promote moral decency and Christian values, is free to engage in this practice while eluding the radar of public scrutiny.
They appear to have the best of both worlds, with one foot in heaven and the other in that other unmentionable place. However, Scripture tells us that by our actions, we who claim to be followers of Christ are known for what and who we really are.
A solution to cleaning up the mess in the political arena begins at home and within our own communities. If we demand that politicians behave in a civil manner and refrain from engaging in questionable practices, we must expect no less of ourselves.