On Negative Campaigning

Well, we’re on schedule: it’s an election year and everyone is decrying negative campaigning. If I were ever to run for office—perish the thought—I would want to be as positive as possible. My goal would be to lay out my beliefs on the proper use of governmental authority and tell people what I would want to accomplish. That’s actually the Calvin Coolidge model of campaigning. It seemed to work well for him.

Would I ever go negative? Here’s where some discernment is necessary. There are two types of negative campaigning: the first simply calls attention to the opponent’s beliefs and/or record to clarify the differences in philosophy; the second demeans an opponent and operates with an “ends-justifies-the-means” mentality.

The first type is perfectly acceptable. How else can you show voters the contrast between positions on issues? The second type is immoral.

When we see the second type, we have every reason to cry foul. Where can we go for an example of this? How about to the president himself?

In the past week, he has made one accusation after another that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is funding Republicans’ campaigns with money from foreign nations. How does he back up the accusation? He doesn’t. Even as leftist a newspaper as the New York Times has declared the accusation undocumented, i.e., false. Yet as many politicos know, often all you have to do is make an accusation, regardless of the facts, and you will sway some voters. Say it often enough and some people will assume it is true.

What makes this particular charge so odious is that there were legitimate questions raised during the 2008 presidential campaign with respect to the source of some of Obama’s funding. Apparently, that was not supposed to be an issue then, but now it is. As the old cliché notes, this is a case of “the pot calling the kettle gray” [note how I deftly sidestepped the obligatory racism accusation].

When Obama’s mouthpiece, David Axelrod, appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation over the weekend, the reporter, Bob Schieffer, tried to pin him down on his proof for the charge. Schieffer said he couldn’t prove it was the case; Axelrod’s rejoinder was that it couldn’t be proven that it wasn’t the case. Huh?

Doesn’t the accuser have the responsibility to come forth with evidence? Isn’t this sort of like “guilty until proven innocent,” which is the opposite of our basic rule of law?

Voters are fed up. That’s why they react to what they perceive as negative ads. Their attitude is not hard to grasp:

In the process of wanting to get rid of the bums, I hope the electorate will manifest some maturity and retain those who are still faithful to the Constitution.