It seems like almost every year there are political insiders moaning and groaning about how one campaign or another is going negative and has “crossed the line.” Of course, all the campaigns try to claim they want to focus on the issues. Nonetheless, there is usually a shouting match taking place by Election Day about which campaign went negative first and which attacks are worse. That has become the case this year in the gubernatorial primary.
Instead of focusing on who has the best plan to help create jobs, make sure our educational system prepares students for the 21st Century job market, and to provide affordable health care coverage to all Virginians, we’ve seen the gubernatorial campaigns go back and forth about which campaign has launched the worst attacks. Today, for instance, Terry McAuliffe’s campaign sent out an email pulled a random quote from a blogger to claim that Brian “Moran's attack bears a striking similarity” to Republican tactics (essentially accussing him of launching an attack and bailing on his own party).
During the 2007, many of Terry’s biggest netroots supporters threw a fit over at the then prominent Raising Kaine when a Republican House of Delegates candidate pulled a similar stunt. Now I have yet to hear any of those bloggers call out Terry for this stunt, but they sure do like to point out negative campaigning whenever they highlight any blogger or activist switching their endorsement from Brian Moran to Terry McAuliffe. In other words, they’re fine with using a negative tactic if it helps their candidate but will moan and groan about it if it hurts someone they’re supporting.
The moaning and groaning gives folks a story to talk about, but it doesn't further our political discussion like the blogosphere should. Moving onwards we need to focus on the ideas that have been put forward in this election. As I mentioned in previous posts, for instance, I really like Brian Moran’s homeowner’s bill of rights, how he called for health care to be more accessible in rural communities, and how his background has influenced him to fight for those in need. All of this is covered up, however, by the back and forth between people in the various campaigns.
As I mentioned earlier, people have been moaning and groaning about negative campaigning for years so I highly doubt that one simple blog post will prevent the practice from continuing. The only way to truly stop the practice would be if people actually stood up as a group and actively worked towards rallying behind candidates who focused their efforts on a positive campaign. Call me naive, but if enough people stood up this might actually work because candidates would realize they have to focus on the issues if they want to be elected.
The problem is, people won't make a true effort to stand up against negative campaigning. They moan and groan every year about the negativity in politics, but jump at the opportunity to launch attacks if they think it'll help their cause. So to everyone out there who is engaged in the meaningless back and forth about who went negative first, just remember that you are only prolonging the use of negative campaigning and preventing a fruitful discussion of the real issues at hand.