By Larry Tramutola.
I’ve been involved in the rough and tumble world of politics for many years and I’m not innocent when it comes to aggressive campaigning. I have written my share of tough mail pieces that highlight my candidate’s strengths and have produced ads and mailers discrediting my opponent. All is part of democratic discourse.
However today we are seeing a different type of campaigning: more personal, more strident and more disgusting than ever before. If a candidate supports a woman’s right to choose he or she may be described as a baby killer if a person suggests that pension reform is needed they are vilified as “anti worker”. Democrats and Republicans who may occasionally cross party lines to attempt compromise and solutions to problems are viewed as sell-outs.
I was at a Democratic Central Committee meeting recently where a Democratic candidate was characterized as “a vile and despicable human being” for suggesting we needed to find solutions to the pension crisis. No one in attendance objected. In that gathering of Democratic partisans, there were many elected officials and more than a few potential candidates. What did they learn?
While the offending words may have been intended to rally the troops, they also sent a message that if you disagree you are vile; if you propose solutions that are not “politically correct” you are despicable. Will those present and future elected officials be willing to challenge the status quo? Will they be willing to work with others across party lines to find solutions to problems?
There are many vile and despicable human beings in the world, but labeling a political opponent as one because we do not agree with him or her on an issue, does not serve our democracy or our common values.
There are many people who I have worked hard to defeat. None of them were vile. None of them despicable. The people who choose to run for public office may not be perfect, but in the end our democracy depends on leaders working with others to find solutions to problems. Name calling and belittling those who choose to run, helps no one.