Online Exclusive: Mudslingers and hell raisers

Today is election day—the final day to vote. For weeks, voters have been blasted with ads, phone calls and various other methods of getting the word out about the issues and the candidates.

Today is election day—the final day to vote. For weeks, voters have been blasted with ads, phone calls and various other methods of getting the word out about the issues and the candidates. Recently, though, political campaigns have become far less about getting elected on principles and issues and more about destroying the opponent.

Perhaps the most notable mud-slinging during this election season is coming from both candidates for Oregon’s governor: John Kitzhaber and Chris Dudley.

Mud-slinging is using smear-campaigning to portray your opponent negatively in order to be seen more positively yourself. It is an old practice in political campaigns—as old as America itself.

However, this tactic has increasingly taken the center stage, degrading the political process—a process that should be about who is best for the job, not who can dig up the most dirt and make up the most trash about opponents.

Dudley’s advertisements against Kitzhaber have put forth the notion that Oregon has one of the highest unemployment rates, and that under the leadership of John Kitzhaber, Oregon has fallen apart. The problem with this ad is that Kitzhaber has not been in office for eight years.

One of Kitzhaber’s most memorable ads was a clearly dubbed video portraying Dudley saying that “Restaurants will say…it does not make sense that our waitresses are getting tips…plus the highest minimum wage in the country.” It then goes on to show Dudley saying, “…having the highest minimum wage in the country negatively impacts the state.” The title of the ad is: “Can you afford Dudley?”

The problem with the ad is that it is completely false and misleading, as reported by KGW Channel 8 news in Portland. The ad put out by a Facebook page, Protect Oregon’s Minimum Wage, shows Dudley making the remarks in an edited series of clips. But in fact, Dudley’s comments on the full, unedited version show the candidate making an entirely different point, and not making any threat to the minimum wage.

So how can mud-slinging be controlled? Since it is such an old part of the political campaign pastime, is there really all the much that can be done to control the vicious exchange of remarks between political candidates?

Part of the problem is that the mud-slinging does not just necessarily occur between two candidates. It also occurs between the two political parties.

In August, KGWalsoreported that Kitzhaber pulled critical ads of Chris Dudley that were purchased by the Democratic Governors Association. A Kitzhaber spokesperson told The Oregonianthat it was not an ad that the campaign could support.

The Democratic Governors Association responded by saying that they will move forward by managing their own content of their ads and they do not need the approval of Kitzhaber.

Dudley’s campaign saw this mess and fired at it, stating that Kitzhaber cannot even manage his own campaign and therefore he does not have the ability to manage the state.

Kitzhaber tried to control the mud-slinging at first, but he could not control the Democratic Governors Association or the attack of Chris Dudley.

One problem with mud-slinging is that it discourages voters from voting for anyone at all. It portrays both parties in a rather negative manner, pushing voters to avoid such a nasty political process altogether.

Candidates should be presenting themselves in a positive light, rather than trying to portray their opponents in a negative light. Campaigns should be about the candidates’ merit and what they can do for their constituents.

What really needs to happen to handle the whole mud-slinging debacle is to outlaw any kind of negative bashing of political opponents. The only message that needs to be talked about during political advertisements should be what a candidate can bring to the job. They should only be allowed to talk about themselves and their qualifications for the position, not criticize the other candidates.

Political campaigns and voting should be a dignified process and until the issue of mud-slinging is under control, the voters need to push away all the hate that is being thrown at them and focus on the issues that affect them.