Autumn is my favorite season. Pardon me for going a little Martha Stewart here but it’s so nice. Leaves change. Warm smells begin to linger in the air. The holiday season beckons from just around the corner. I get to finally wear the clothes I look good in again. However, every couple years my pastoral bliss is disrupted by hoofbeats in the distance. Suddenly I remember what’s approaching and become very afraid upon hearing its call.
“IT’S DEMOCRACY TIME PARDNERS! YEEEEEEEHAW!!!!”
That’s right. Election season is upon us again. It’s that wonderful time when we all come together and engage in sober and rational debate to elect our leaders and representatives. It’s when we reflect upon the awesome power that comes with self-governance and enjoy the awesome bloody gladiatorial spectacle that is modern campaigning.
The smear really is an art when you get down to it. Like anything technique can be sloppy or refined. As someone who has worked in the political field, including in the state legislature (the home of the stealth smear) I take a somewhat morbid interest in negative campaigning. Some hit pieces are very good. Some are the political equivalent of the Jedi mind trick. Most are clumsy and transparent though and backfire in hilariously embarrassing ways.
I came across one lately though that I think could very well be the first post-modern negative campaign ad. An email has been circulating that includes a picture taken of Mayor Susan Narvaiz dressed in heavy theatrical makeup at a charity event some years ago.
I see that and think, OK, not impressed. The text, which I won’t go into, contained no attacks. It just mentioned policy proposals. It was a hit piece without a hit. Then I noticed the email seemed to indicate that it was sent on behalf of Narvaiz’s campaign and even had a link to the campaign email address. Curious.
I took it upon myself to email the person who sent it, a new player on the San Marcos political scene named ralphtheswimmingpig@(domain redacted).org
A nasty ad is one thing, but I think pretending to be part of a campaign, and communicating on its behalf when one is not, is newsworthy. In fact I think it could be considered fraud. After confirming with the mayor that she doesn’t have, nor ever has had any swimming pigs named Ralph on her campaign staff. I emailed “Ralph”. I gave him/her the chance to explain why he or she did this through a column that’s we’d publish. My condition was they had to use their real name.
“Ralph” got back to me with one weblink to the mayor’s campaign site. It turns out the text of the email in question was cut and paste directly from it. Now I am sure that either this really is the first post-modern negative political ad and is truly a work of genius, or, more likely, it was created by someone who learned from the abridged book of bad politicking.
I know, big deal. It’s just an email, and a profoundly stupid one at that. Even mentioning it gives it more credence than it’s due. However, it bugs me. See, where I come from we aren’t afraid to put our names behind our words. I don’t know how they do it where “Ralph” comes from, but it’s just seems like the right thing to me.
One of my favorite symbols of America is Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” painting. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a man standing up in a meeting who is suddenly the center of attention. He looks nervous but determined. Maybe he doesn’t know all the ins and outs of what he’s about to talk about, but by God he’s got something to say and he’s not afraid to stand up and say it. Maybe he’s wrong. Maybe he’s going to say something unpopular. But he isn’t afraid to publicly take a stand and actually be a citizen instead of a spectator (or an anonymous punk)
I don’t care who you vote for and this isn’t about sticking up for the mayor. You’ll find no endorsements here. I’d be just as offended if it happened to any of the other candidates. This is about us as voters being disrespected by these cheap hucksters who think we really are so stupid, so easily manipulated, that we’d just buy into anything with a weird picture and a surreptitious origin.
Looking through and weighing the actual issues is hard enough with the busy lives we all lead. It’s unreasonable to expect constant engagement on the issues. That’s why we’re a republic. However, if we don’t take the time to really get into it and make up our own minds based on the facts, issues and who we really believe can address them to our satisfaction; if we don’t use our reason, then cheap cowards like “Ralph” win because we just didn’t care enough to call them on it.
Let’s start calling them on it.
by SEAN WARDWELL
(Note: the opinions expressed in this column are strictly those of the author and are not the position of Newstreamz.com or its staff)Email | Print