Is it a campaign or laundry issue?

From Keloland.com:
Volesky Running for Governor

The 2006 election is approaching fast in South Dakota, and the only announced Democratic candidate for governor so far is Ron Volesky of Huron.

He is a former 16-year state lawmaker who failed in a bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2002 and later lost in the general election to Republican Larry Long for attorney general.

The Democrat says there's always room for change in politics, and Volesky believes he can beat Rounds.

Volesky says, "Nobody is bulletproof."

Volesky plans to make a formal announcement this fall, and he pledges to run a clean campaign for governor. (My emphasis added)
First, he lost a primary. Then, he lost the Attorney General's race. Now? Now he's running for Governor! Yay! Go Team!

Good grief. Dems, this sounds like your last candidate for Governor.

On top of everything else, he says he's going to run a "clean campaign." What does clean campaign mean? What is a clean campaign? What is a dirty campaign? Does it mean family is off limits? Does it mean personal things are off limits? What's off limits? Can surrogates attack instead, or does that still make me a little dirty? I'd like to know, so I can run a clean campaign too.

Who knows what a clean campaign is? It's never been defined. The only thing I can find is off the cuff from Massachusetts and it's "Clean Election Law." But that deals with finance and it's a doozy too. Take a read here.

This is all quite confusing. Let's start with the basics. What is a campaign? Well, according to Dictionary.com:

political campaign

n 1: a race between candidates for elective office; "I managed his campaign for governor"; "he is raising money for a Senate run" [syn: campaign, run] 2: the campaign of a candidate to be elected [syn: campaigning, candidacy, candidature, electioneering]

A race? Would that be like a competition? Where there's a winner and a loser? Yes, of course. It's not an insidious group hug. It's not one-potato two-potato. We don't all get ribbons because we participated. ITS A RACE TO THE FINISH AND THE LOSER DOESN'T GET DIDDLY!

Ahem. Sorry... It's a competition where a group of people are going to choose the person that is best going to be able to act as their leader or representative for the next period of time. So, why are some tactics in a race clean, and some negative?

I suspect it is because there are things that we would not want disclosed about ourselves. If a candidate crosses that line, and the infraction they are accusing the other candidate of hits too close to home - in that too many of us might also be guilty of that infraction - it's going to be perceived as negative because it's painting a societal norm (sanctioned or not) in a negative light. It might also be negative if it's out of the candidates control.

"Mr. Opposing Candidate, you are unfit for office because your wife is a drug abuser." Well, that's probably going to be negative because it's his wife, and he could not do anything about it.

But if it's a matter of "Mr. Opposing candidate - you commanded the police to cover up your wife's drug arrest." I would argue that's not negative. It's so closely similar, it's almost impossible to differentiate. But the difference here, is that the accused candidate had a direct hand in affecting an aspect of it.

Is something negative, because it's a dark commercial with ominous music? Can't happy ads be funny and negative too? Are negative ads strictly on television, and the one that comes in your mailbox exempted from that rule?

I find this discussion fascinating, because I've had this argument with candidates before. In a race, you can't ignore the impact of what people call 'negative campaigning.'

One thing is for certain. Negative campaigning works. And it works well. It's a proven tactic. It's one of the most effective ways to differentiate yourself from your opponent. What's the downside? It drives down turnout because it impacts whether people want to be a part of the process in the first place. The nastier the fight, the lower the turnout. And that's the rub.

I suspect the "negative ad" has gotten it's reputation because campaigning where a candidate's position on the issues he or she believes in is the focus has for the most part been foregone for exclusively going negative and hammering the opponent.

And that's the fault of people who are too concerned with the art of the kill, and not enough with the art of persuasion. People, you can drive a wedge, but then you have to set forth a premise to draw those voters you wedged off to you. If you keep driving the wedge without a magnet to draw them to you, you're not accomplishing anything.

My advice? Balance your advertising, and quit trying to use the "clean campaign pledge." It's been done to death. And it is a gimmick. I've used it myself, so I know what I'm talking about. It's a way of painting yourself as an angel, and the opponent as a dirty dog. The problem is that everyone is jumping on the clean campaign bandwagon, and you guys have ruined that novelty tactic for me. I'm going to have to find another one.
Maybe, "The Contract for South Dakota?" (Don't take that one, I'm going to use it. OK?)

Comments

Anonymous said…
WOW! A republican defending negative campaigning. Whodathunkit?
PP said…
Ahem...

"If you keep driving the wedge without a magnet to draw them to you, you're not accomplishing anything."

My point is, you can't just be an a$$****. You have to tell them why they should vote for you, too. One ad in the beginning doesn't cut it.

And Dems are not as pure as the driven snow on this either.
Publisher said…
Professor,
If I may, I'd like to point out that there is now way on God's Earth Volesky can beat Rounds no matter if he ran a clean campaign or not. In fact, Rounds could sit on the porch and not campaign at all and still win. Hands down!

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