Glad to see end of a bare-knuckle season
As this divisive political season winds down, most of us can agree on one thing. We’re glad it’s over.
Negative campaigning has permeated the system, from top to bottom. If you watched the Washington TV ads for Virginia’s Senate race, you might have noticed that neither candidate ever said what he would do or what he believed. It was all about attacking his opponent. Likewise, the Maryland referendum on gambling seemed to be as much about preventing dollars from being spent at Charles Town Races as it was about the benefits for Maryland.
Attack ads were everywhere, even in local races for sheriff and county commissioner. Some of them were put together and paid for by political action committees and individuals. That way, candidates could claim they had nothing to do with them.
Partly, this was due to the “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that basically ended any rules about campaign spending by corporations, unions and other “outside” groups. But, truth is, bean-ball politics and ugly campaigning have been part of American elections from the start.
When Thomas Jefferson challenged President John Adams in 1800, his opponents ran a fear campaign claiming the new nation would go to the dogs if the radical, ungodly Jefferson were elected. Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln and Grover Cleveland were among those who also faced vicious attacks in the next 100 years. They all turned out to be strong presidents.
Against this backdrop, many of the campaigns of our lifetime have been quite civil – at least until the current trend began in the late 1980s. Voters, it seems, are mixed about the negativity. During the presidential debates, the CNN studio audience reacted thumbs down every time Obama or Romney attacked the other. Yet, sadly, people seem to remember the bad things more than the good.
As we write this, we have no idea how the election will turn out, or even whether the winner of the presidential race will be clear when the sun rises on Wednesday morning.
We congratulate the victors, whoever they are. We wish them luck since their success will affect the success of the rest of us. We hope the next four years will see more working together and civility than the last four years.