Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dirty Campaigning - Stop Whining and Start Throwing Punches

Well, after a long and well thought out writing about the deep conversation with my Mom at 5 AM this morning, I open my Wall Street Journal and what do I see? An article that gets right to the point about "diry campaigning".

It was great to see that article because I had heard so many people whining about the "un-American" behavior of the opponents calling names and slinging mud. And I was laughing my ass off. I was just thinking the same thing last night while I was on a comment board. Not the "un-American" part. The point that the article makes is that "dirty campaigning" is about as "American" as you can get. Anyone trying to invoke the "gentleman's code" of our Founding Fathers as some sort of talisman against being called a "boob", a "rube", a "flip-flop" or a "liar", frankly falls under my favorite epitaph of "moron".

Even our first President was not immune to the caricatures of the time. As he was elected by the congressional electorate, fresh from beating the stuffing out of the British, some cartoons and political opponents posed him as a replacement for King George III of Britain and referred to George Washington as King George I of America. You see, Ted Kennedy's little stroll through the deragotory, refering to George Bush 2 as "King George", is more than just an insult. It is highly un-original.

As Bridget Johnson points out in her article Didactic Dirt; The Case For Vicious Campaigning, political dirt throwing is one hell of away to get the people involved in the political process. She makes a note about the almost boring convention of the Democrats drawing about as much attention from the public as an ice cream truck that ran out of gas:

Without fail, every campaign season--from the race for president of the United States to senior-class president--kicks off with a pledge from candidates to run a clean race, to talk about the issues, to rise above political infighting, yadda yadda yadda.

This leaves us with the same tired, benign drivel: "I believe in the promise of America." (Who doesn't?) "I want to focus on the issues" (Then focus already!) "I love the American people." (Can't we just be friends?)

But she points out the obvious about the American voting public:

American culture tends to find politics about as exciting as going to a hot dance club with Alan Greenspan. As citizens in Afghanistan are tripping over each other just to register to vote, Americans might register if the booth is conveniently located between the ice-cold Bud and T-shirts at a Limp Bizkit concert. And when it comes to actually marching those feet down to a polling station, in marches couch-potato apathy. Secretaries of state anticipate this, sending out sample ballots and other materials to whet one's electoral appetite, all screaming "ELECTION DAY IS NOVEMBER 2--DON'T FORGET!" Meanwhile, election day is burned into the mind of the average guy on a Kabul street.

So you could say that the first benefit of dirty campaigning is getting the average Joe Voter to care. Here are the hard facts: About 101 million people voted in the 2000 presidential election. This year, the "American Idol 3" finale drew some 65 million votes. Even accounting for teenage serial phone dialers, that says something, such as how the televised coverage of 2000's party conventions was handily voted off the Nielsen island by reality-TV godfather "Survivor." So aside from making the candidates eat bugs à la "Fear Factor," these nomination spectacles will not hook the glazy-eyed millions who didn't vote.

And, dammit! She's right. She also points out some other examples of how a little dirt throwing can get the ball rolling when things are at a deadlock:

So months later, as Democratic legislators sat as a big, stubborn block in the way of passing a state budget on time (as usual), Mr. Schwarzenegger ditched the cozy kaffeeklatches with state Senate leader John Burton and hit the road to convince everyday Californians the importance of the boring budget battle. At one stop, Arnold called these stonewalling legislators "girlie-men." People cheered. Democrats sulked and accused the governor of being homophobic, misogynistic, insensitive, immature, a creep, etc.

The next morning, everyone knew about the state budget crisis. The governor and Democratic lawmakers soon struck an agreement. All it took was a gentle flick of mud.

Of course, it's good for educating the voters about the candidate. Wouldn't you rather know that your potential elected President has a tendency to cheat on his wife routinely before he becomes President and embarasses the hell out of us?

She does point out the obvious about our sometimes intellectually lazy public:

The drawback to dirty campaigning is that the ignorant will buy some false dirt as truth. But then you step into the fray with a fiery retort, and let the verbal bullets fly. If a candidate has the tendency to lie through his teeth, better to let it come out now than later. If there is a sordid past lurking behind the coiffed man, draw it out and let the voters decide if this personal issue matters in his ability to lead. Don't write off dirty campaigning as a fault of the weak. It's an American tradition that sometimes reveals valuable information.

Hell! Go read the entire article here.

And the next time somebody starts crying about the name calling and the dirty politics, tell them to stop whining and start throwing punches.


ALa said...

I have to admit it...I love smashmouth politics...
I can read about the candidate's policies on their websites -that's free access to anyone...I wanna hear the dirt that I can't dig up myself. People can SAY anything they want --I can say that I have a Harvard Law Degree...I don't--- but who would know unless they started digging!
I say dig away boys and let's see what you're really made of! (I don't mean making stupid stuff up -the true real gritty meaty stuff -that's what I want)
Sorry, I know it's despicable, but I feel if you want the highest job in the land -it's my right to know who you really are -through your deeds, not your words...

Kat said..., I say, "Can you smeeeellll what the President is cooking?" "Smack Down!"

Robert said...

Negative campaigning has always been a favorite.

Its rather idealistic to think otherwise.

Although technically 'dirty campaigning' is lying about your candidate, to me. If its true, then its fair game. But don't distort things and lie. Tell it straight.

Kat said...

Well...if politics were clean and pretty, we'd be like the munckins on the wizard of Oz. I'll be the mayor, you could be the coroner. And little houses would just fly out of the sky and land on all of our enemies. LOL