Candidates smear each other and it’s shameful

Sept. 10, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Wow, that was one hell of an election, wasn’t it? The issues and candidates spurred greater turnout than usual – excellent – and more hyperbole and well, let’s be honest, greater misrepresentations of the facts.

In some of the races I observed you had civility between candidates while they were presenting their arguments for your support. I commend those who understood that name-calling and negativity could hurt them as much as it might hurt their opponent.

I also was heartened by the turnout. People saw the importance of this election locally.

In these days, most of the mudslinging is done through ads sponsored by political action groups (PACs) rather than by the candidates themselves. And this time there was plenty of mudslinging.

My problem with negative ads is they make candidates look like bullies. It’s not what information they present, but they way it’s presented in many cases.

 Candidates are encouraged to develop narratives – storylines that can be repeated over and over in order to impress voters. So, we heard how Alex Morse’s father has worked in a meatpacking plant for more than 30 years and how Richard Neal lost his parents at an early age. Both are true statements and the repetition was designed to make us understand that both men came from humble origins and faced challenges from childhood.  

That’s fine. I get it. What I didn’t like were statements designed to smear.

For instance, there was a radio ad from Justice Democrats speaking about the CARES Act, written in part by Neal. The ad alleged the legislation allowed corporations to receive billions of dollars and the American public simply received a stimulus check and a few more weeks of unemployment.

What a crock. The fact the unemployed received their state unemployment benefits with an additional $600 a week from the federal government made a whole lot of difference to millions of people.

That was shameful. The “Justice” Democrats should have known better.

Here’s another one that bothered me. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a PAC, which contributed money to Morse’s campaign. In some circles, the word was that she endorsed Morse over Neal. This may be slicing the bologna a little thin, but she did not endorse him. She issued no statement.  

I thought it was very interesting that in our senate race, she endorsed Sen. Edward Markey over a colleague in the House, Rep. Joe Kennedy III. Clearly she was more interested in positions and issues than in advancing what some people saw as another “progressive” candidate.

I put that in quotes because frankly I don’t think it’s the most precise word in describing a political stance.

Speaking of Kennedy, can anyone tell me why he was running at this time? I never saw or heard a statement that summed up why he was challenging Markey at this time.

I fully realize what is seen as passion and bravery by some people will be seen as easy and foolish to others. When Morse called Neal a “liar” to his face in the second debate I’m sure his supporters cheered. I imagine his supporters saw it as gutsy. I thought it was cheap and predictable.  There had to be a more artful way to express your disagreement.

In this kind of contest, often it is the challenger who must throw everything he or she can at the incumbent. Again, I get it.

There is a calculated risk in that, though. If the challenger doesn’t succeed, he or she must live with those body punches that were thrown. Some incumbents may not be so inclined to forgive and forget quickly and that can affect a working relationship.

Remember, politics is like hunting. You don’t want to wound the bear.

I’m not speaking for Neal here. After all he thanked the people of Holyoke for voting for him. I’m willing to bet Morse was disappointed that the city for which he has been mayor for nine years did not overwhelmingly support him.

 I imagine that in future conversations between the two men there may be a few awkward moments.

What I hope moving forward is that voters go beyond the sound bites and ads. Do some research. Keep your mind open and think. If COVID-19 should accomplish one thing it’s to prove the necessity of good government and how it reacts in times of crisis.

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