I don’t believe in Santa Claus. Or the Easter Bunny. Or the Tooth Fairy. That is to say that while I am now and forever will be an idealist, I am not naive. I understand that politics isn’t hopscotch. It’s not a game for children or those with weak stomachs. And it’s not just that I think that politics should be about more than the dirt-flinging and name-calling that dominates modern politics. It’s that I feel like campaigning and politics in general must be about more than that. It’s about more than winning. Now it’s easy to say that thinking like that is the reason that I’ve lost so many of the campaigns I’ve worked with. The truth is that most of the candidates that I’ve worked for never had a real chance at winning to begin with, which makes it easier to be noble. It’s easy to be noble when it’s not a close race and you know you’re going to lose. Fair enough. But I have worked on tough, close campaigns. And outside of a single act of political pettiness (registering my opponent’s domain names before he had a chance to do it, himself) when I was young and stupid, I’ve never done anything that I can’t be proud of.
The Race For ’08
I’m not going to say that the ’08 race has been dirtier than previous races. At least not yet. It’s usually the last few days when the worst usually comes out. Harold Ford, Jr. was subjected to a disgusting barrage of racially-charged attacks two years ago. John McCain (not the John McCain that’s the GOP nominee but the John McCain that ran for President 8 years ago) was, of course, subjected to a similarly nasty round of attacks in the primaries. We can only hope that this doesn’t match those previous levels, though I’m worried that it might. And the treatment of war-hero-turned-politician Max Cleland is among the most disgraceful acts I can recall in modern politics.
But as the races get tighter and incumbents fear losing their jobs, the tarring and feathering will continue. Today it’s the previously respectable Senator Elizabeth Dole from North Carolina. With a very real chance that she might lose her previously safe seat in the Senate, her campaign has resorted to trying to imply that her opponent, Democrat Kay Hagan, does not believe in god in an attempt to rally religious voters. The ad is reminiscent of the Cleland attacks, which questioned the patriotism of a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam.
While calling into question a person’s religious beliefs has no place in politics to begin with, it is something of an absurd attack considering that Hagan was a Sunday school teacher.
And of course lawsuit-happy Coleman is at it again with another lawsuit stunt. Now, I’m especially optimistic that Coleman will lose because of the promise I see in Al Franken. I know that many will balk at the suggestion that a Saturday Night Live alumnus might make a promising Senator. But for anyone with questions, I’d suggest that they watch this video, which I think appropriately encapsulates the honest, common-sense approach that a Senator Franken might bring to Washington.
Getting to the Point
I guess it’s time to get to the point, so here it is… People want more. They deserve better. When you win by getting neck-deep in mud, you’ll always be remembered as a candidate willing to do anything to win. People like Chambliss will never be taken seriously. He might have won. But it will always be tainted. I don’t want to sound like a boy scout here. But every time someone wins that way, people lose a little more faith in the system. As someone who believes in the power of politics to change lives, I think that’s a price too high to pay.
UPDATE: There’s new suggestions that the GOP is darkening photos of a Democratic candidate of East Indian descent from Minnesota.