What if political campaigns were driven by the important issues of the day? What if the public held accountable those candidates who ran a negative campaign? What if voters could weigh the pros and cons of a candidate based on information that was truthful and verifiable? What if…?
With two months remaining from a long political season, campaigns by local candidates will be much more visible. Candidates have been working for months door knocking and phone calling, courting potential voters in hopes of securing elected office on November 6. Unfortunately, it’s this time of year also when the worst aspect of campaigning will begin to rear its ugly head: negative campaigning. Often times, these tactics are beyond the control of the candidate’s campaign plan. Interest groups, constituents, political parties, and political action committees will unleash their own brand of politics with absolutely no input from the candidates themselves. Within the past two weeks alone – in two different newspapers – I have been accused of creating Minnesota’s six billion dollar deficit, ignoring constituents west of I-35, for my reelection, I relied exclusively on “liberal Northfield,” college students and unions outside our district, doing nothing for public school funding, and worst of all, that I, as a teacher, fought against the interests of students in the legislature. These attacks did not come from my opponent but by someone I never met and one who knows absolutely nothing about my campaign and little of my congressional record.
I was visiting with a woman from my church last week. She told me she had been subjected to a push poll over the phone. “Will you be supporting Kevin Dahle for the Minnesota Senate in the upcoming election?” When she answered yes, the unidentified caller asked, “Will you be supporting Kevin Dahle even though he… (insert lies, half-truths, positions out of context, etc. here)? A push poll, by definition, is not a poll at all. It is a telemarketing technique to influence or alter the view of respondents based on propaganda, innuendo, and/or rumors. In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Other constituents have contacted me with tales of phone calls that denigrate my campaign rather than tout their own endorsed candidate. Fortunately, it did not change their mind. But what of those who are seeking information on candidates and are influenced by such base tactics? Is this really the best way to treat our electorate? Do we really deem an informed citizenry as a threat to the political process?
I am determined to continue to run a positive campaign. My volunteers will talk only about the Dahle campaign and the assets that I can bring to the legislature. We have not and will not talk about my opponent in a negative way. We actually prefer not to talk about my opponent at all. I pursue this ideal because I believe this is the type of campaign people across Minnesota would like to see. The negative ads and the negative campaigning we see at the Federal level leave them frustrated. There are some groups who have the legal right to support me in a manner that I do not believe is constructive. I do not become aware of such methods until the “horse has already left the barn.” However, I assure you that any attack on my opponent will not come from nor ever be sanctioned by me. When in doubt, I encourage any person from any party to contact me with the opportunity to set the record straight.
Because of negative campaigning, many voters have told me they may not even vote this year. This sense of futility undermines our democratic process. I tell them they cannot give up on their right to vote. Voting has been and will be the supreme act that buoys the citizen above the negative flotsam and jetsam of an ill-conceived campaign. Even if you vote for my opponent, I want you to vote. It’s too important a decision to be left to the few. Of that I am positive!