Sunday, October 5, 2008

On Negative Campaigning

The McCain campaign has fallen so far behind, and is in such desperate straits as a result, that it is reported that the campaign will unleash a barrage of negative campaigning against Obama during this upcoming last month of the campaign. It was said on "Meet the Press" this morning that the Democrats shouldn't just respond aggressively, but they should attack aggressively. An Obama ad was shown criticizing McCain on his economic policies.

It seems to me that the phrase "negative campaigning" is too broad to really get a handle on what is going on here. There are at least two kinds of negative campaigns: attacking your opponent's policies, and attacking your opponent's character. Obama 's new ad does the former, and there is nothing wrong with that. McCain's expected ads attack Obama for his supposed association with a guy who was part of the radical Weather Underground movement in the '70's, and this does the latter.

Are the American people so gullible so as to fall for this sort of nonsense? Certainly they fell for it hook, line, and sinker in 1988 when they elected Bush Sr., following his despicable negative campaign against Dukakis. Past voting habits give one no cause for optimism, but I would like to think the undecided voters in the middle have more sense than to fall for the negativity we are about to see from McCain. Even arch-conservative Peggy Noonan decried the upcoming negativity from McCain, and pleaded for a politics that is more civil in nature.

On the Kansas level, a candidate some years back for Attorney General, named Richard Schodorf, unleashed a negative campaign against his opponent when he started accusing her of "hugging a drug dealer" after a Court hearing. His excuse for this despicable line of campaigning was that "I thought my opponent was going to go negative". He was trying to beat her to the punch, based on a mistaken assumption about her intentions. It failed, and a candidate with long prosecutorial experience lost to an unqualified newcomer who had virtually no experience as a result. Shame on you, Richard Schodorf.

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