Wednesday, February 01, 2012

NEGATIVITY THROUGH THE YEARS

"And further I have it on good authority that my opponent is a chronic masticator and practices heteronormal activities with his wife!"

Dont Vote For the Other Guy
So Mitt Romney won in Florida, giving him a few more delegates. Newt is not too far behind him, then Santorum. Then Ron Paul, who keeps not winning but his rabid followers insist he's got massive support everywhere and will easily win the next primary, just look at the polls!

Romney won over Gingrich largely due to a tsunami of negative campaigning and news reports. The establishment GOP beltway insider leadership chose him to win before the first debate; they had picked him and don't care what the party membership thinks. So when Newt does well, they pile on him like a defensive line and grind his face in the turf. Then he does well in a debate and people love the guy's statements and moxie, and he soars again.

The campaigning against Gingrich is particularly dirty and somewhat amazing to watch. Gingrich in turn tries to pile on to Romney but he doesn't have the manpower, money, or high profile guys in the media to help him, so he's not as effective. It isn't that there's no bad news or problems with Romney that are brought up, its that they don't get the coverage from the same sort of people.

Now, just about everyone dislikes negative campaigning of this sort, the substitution of good ideas and leadership with just finding everything bad about your foe and slinging it from all directions. But just about every candidate does it, and will. And its not new. Presidential candidates have been using negative campaigning since the very first few elections in American history.

The Jefferson-Adams election was particularly bitter, with two former friends attacking each other, largely through surrogates. They accused each other of being "hermaphroditic," "treasonous," "hypocrite," weak, tyrannical, and so on. Adams' camp called Jefferson a "mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." Jefferson's surrogates claimed Adams wanted to invade France.

The election between Adams and Andrew Jackson was the same sort of thing. Charles Hammond in his Cincinnati Gazette asked about Andrew Jackson: “Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?” Jackson's supporters in turn accused Adams of using public funds to buy gambling equipment for a personal home (a chess set billiards table).

This stuff isn't new, and sometimes it was much worse in the past. Abraham Lincoln had to sneak into Washington DC dressed as a woman in 1864, for fear of opponents. And other nations have similar outrageous stories and campaigns. Whenever there's an election, the passions and claims get more lurid and the more powerful the position the more extreme they become.

In all honesty I don't mind this kind of thing if its on target and includes policy and leadership. If all you offer is "my opponent sucks more than me" I don't want either of you in office. And right now, that's what we're getting from the GOP candidates. They didn't start out all that well to begin with, and have gotten worse.

They need to focus on President Obama and his failings, not each others'. They need to show how they'd be better, now how they suck less. They need to show specific, strong policy ideas and leadership, not clever campaigning and debate soundbites. Two candidates in the GOP ranks did: Perry specifically said what he'd do and could do as president, and Cain had his 9-9-9 plan. Those were policy-specific ideas.

I just hate this kind of campaigning. Negativity doesn't matter so much as a lack of real presidential leadership and ideas. And the lack of focus on President Obama is not just idiotic, its distracting from the real problems this nation faces and the next president has to address. They're getting so far away from where they need to focus laser like its playing exactly into President Obama's hands, and that's just inexcusable.

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