Sunday, November 11, 2012

More election results

"I'm just not going to go there. I had to put my foot down, but I'm not going to be part of the problem." — Susan Judkins, Democratic candidate for Iowa House District 43 in a personal conversation discussing negative campaigning

HEY LOOK HAS been resting up after the election. Of course you were assuming — not to mention relieved and nothing short of ecstatic — that it's over. 

But n-o-o-o-o-o! I've got stuff to say about it.

Thing one: As I was four years ago, I'm almost dizzy with pinch-me-if-this-is-real euphoria that America has reelected a person of honor, intelligence and — here comes the pinch-me part — color! It makes me so proud of my country.

Thing two: The flip side is that I'm appalled that so many people voted against Barack Obama because he's "black". Doubtless, there were a myriad of reasons individual Americans weren't in his corner, but don't kid yourself, there was a huge voting block driven entirely by racism.

Thing three: As of Thursday morning, my friend Susan Judkins, lost her race for the Iowa House by 22 votes. It will be up to Susan and the Democratic Party whether or not to ask for a recount. 

Although my efforts on Susan's behalf pale in comparison to Judy McCoy Davis', still I spent many, many hours addressing postcards, going through lists, driving her around so she could knock on doors and designing her stationery, business cards, door hangers and yard signs, so of course I'm disappointed with the outcome. 

But here's the real bummer not just for Susan and her supporters, but for all of us. Ten days before the election, when it became apparent to her opponent and the Republican Party of Iowa that it was turning out to be a tight race, they dropped a misleading, negative direct mail piece and ran a blitz of negative ads on TV in prominent time slots.

The House Democrats weren't able to give Susan money to counter with her own TV ads nor was there time to do so considering the last minute nature of the attack. Urged by certain elements to come out with a negative direct mail piece of her own, she didn't. All of the campaign pieces Susan made and sent throughout her campaign including right up to election day contained only information about her goals, her experience and a comparison of the two candidates' positions; no falsifications.

Here's what Susan had to say on her website about the negative ads:

The barrage of negative ads that has occurred in the final week of the election is causing many voters to speak up in frustration. You'll see no misleading ads from me; I think honesty and integrity are more important. Personally, I think people are more interested in knowing what a candidate has really done or will do than in reading or hearing false information about an opponent. 

Therein lies the problem. The nation laments the corrosive effect of negative campaigning and the corrupting, thumb-on-the-scale power of money in what should be a civil discourse of ideas, yet across the country, anti-messaging has worked over and over again. It's used not only for the purpose of persuading the electorate to vote for or against a candidate, it's also used as a means of voter suppression; the reasoning is that if you can't get someone to vote for you, maybe you can at least get them to not vote for your opponent by not voting at all.

We'll never know for sure in Susan's case whether the negative ads were effective. I do know this: we had a highly-competent, hard-working, bi-partisan, candidate with years of leadership working in state economic development including serving as Intergovernmental Affairs Director for the Rebuild Iowa Office, and she lost by 22 votes. It will be difficult to convince me that there weren't at least 22 voters influenced, and not in their best interests, by the negative campaign.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow.
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