Well, the special election has totally soured me on politics.
That is not a statement about the results, but rather the process — more specifically, the tactics both the major candidates resorted to throughout the campaign. Forget for a minute who cast the first stone and focus on the fact both Martha Coakley and Scott Brown engaged in negative campaigning (yes, Brown supporters — it happened), disseminated misleading and sometimes entirely false information about each other’s credentials and positions, and allowed outside parties to only exacerbate the situation by tacitly supporting their aggressive and at time borderline slanderous ads (in that neither candidate did anything to renounce ads taken out on their behalf but without their express consent).
I wish we had a cooling-off period before the next election, but no, we’re heading right into the next cycle, which means there will be a lot of raw feelings within the Democratic and Republican parties, and when emotions run hot in politics, things get very ugly very quickly — often in defiance of a long-standing truism that Massachusetts voters don’t like negative campaigning. Party loyalists tend to turn a blind eye to shady tactics when it’s their candidate utilizing them, but voters who take a second to think about what they’re seeing don’t go flocking to the side of candidates who are more concerned with slamming the other guy than selling themselves.
While I doubt this will go anywhere, I’m throwing this out anyway in the faint hope that perhaps it will, as the kids say, “go viral” and gain the notice of candidates for office in 2010 and beyond…
THE CLEAN ELECTION PLEDGE
WHEREAS the voters of Massachusetts should at all times be fully and accurately educated about any and all candidates for elected office at the municipal, county, state, and federal levels, that they make fully informed decisions when electing their leaders; and
WHEREAS the responsibility for educating voters lies directly and primarily with the individual candidates for elected office; and
WHEREAS campaigns that willfully and knowingly engage in practices that attempt to deceive the voting public through the use of negative, incomplete, inaccurate, and/or wholly false information about rival candidates in a given political race prevent voters from learning about the issues that most directly affect their lives, and by extension interferes with their ability to choose their elected leaders in an educated and informed manner; and
WHEREAS negative campaign tactics set a poor example to voters who might attempt to reach out to other voters on behalf of their chosen candidate(s), and thus encourage voters to spread negative, incomplete, inaccurate, and/or wholly false information about candidates in a given political race; and
WHEREAS independent organizations directly and indirectly associated with individual campaigns, but not part of the official campaign, which conduct public outreach efforts without the express consent of their chosen candidate, disrupt the process and deceive voters by disseminating negative, incomplete, inaccurate, and/or wholly false information about rival candidates; and
WHEREAS negative campaigning creates ill will among voters toward the political process and may discourage them from participating in the process; and
WHEREAS adopting this pledge will set a positive and productive tone for the coming election, thereby giving the voters of Massachusetts and the election process the respect they deserve and encouraging full participation in the process,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that I, as a formal candidate in a municipal, county, state, or federal government race that will be determined by a public election, will adhere to the following principles and standards of conduct throughout the election cycle in question:
I RESOLVE to at all times place all statements, materials, and information pertaining to my campaign in a positive context that lists, explains, and extols my own credentials, positions, and policies in a thoroughly honest, accurate, and forthright manner; and
I RESOLVE to refrain from engaging in campaign tactics that deliberately disseminate negative, incomplete, inaccurate, and/or wholly false information about rival candidates; and
I RESOLVE to refrain from deliberately establishing a scenario that is intended to create a situation that I may then exploit by portraying the rival candidate in a negative light (i.e., issuing a challenge to sign a “no new taxes” pledge, knowing such a pledge is diametrically opposed to the other candidate’s philosophies, then presenting the opponent’s refusal as evidence he/she wants to raise taxes); and
I RESOLVE to immediately and publicly denounce any independent third-party efforts to damage the reputation and character of a rival candidate or misrepresent a rival candidate’s record or platform through the dissemination of negative, incomplete, inaccurate, and/or wholly false information; and
I RESOLVE to address challenges to the accuracy of my credentials, positions, and policies by providing objective documentation that supports my claims; and to do so in a civil manner that does not portray a rival candidate as engaging in deliberate deception
ADOPTED on this date…
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.