We’re through primary season, but the general election still looms, and we have a word of advice for candidates across the spectrum.
Campaign ads this year were unusually abrasive and negative. Perhaps this was to be expected. With the pandemic disrupting normal routines, mailings and TV ads were more important than ever. And with emotions running high, candidates likely looked for messages that tapped into those extreme emotions.
Crowded events where you could shake the hands of candidates? Forget it. Images of explosions and disruption? You got it.
We would like to issue a challenge to every single candidate on the local, state and national level for the fall. Be proactive in your advertising. Tell us about your background, where you come from and what your values are. Tell us about your experience and how it prepares you for the office you see. Tell us about your stance on the issues — but not in a way that denigrates those who might have good-faith disagreements with you.
In other words, stop yelling. Pull up a chair and have a conversation with us, if only figuratively.
And listen, we get it. It’s easy for an editorial advisory board to tut-tut at negative campaigning and call for a more constructive approach. Politicians and their advisers go negative because, despite what voters might say, negative ads work. They seize people’s attention. They motivate.
Refusing to engage in destructive politics, then, takes more than a pledge from candidates or their campaigns. It takes effort on behalf of voters, too. We have to be willing to sit down and listen to those who lay out plans. We have to be willing to engage with issues.
Most of the time, the government isn’t thrilling. It’s about competence and good sense, about making the trains run on time. It’s about working on budgets and education formulas, about ensuring the bureaucracy runs efficiently. It’s about caring for the needs of the many, a good chunk of whom will never have voted for you.
Ideologically driven negative ads are nonsense precisely because they bear no relation to what good government is like. They’re from a fantasy land of politics, where greedy evildoers crawl over one another in their quest to harm honest people.
Most people in politics serve for honorable reasons. They want to represent and serve their constituents. And their campaigns for office should reflect that.