“Politics ain’t bean bags,” so the saying goes, or maybe it should be.
This saying—more than 100 years old—refers to a game with bean bags played primarily by girls and implies that “politics is nasty and not a game for girls.”
It’s a sexist sentiment for sure given that in the last century women have gained lots of ground heretofore unavailable to them and that right now a woman is vying for the leadership of the free world.
And nastiness, it would seem, prevails in our national discourse.
These days, negative, misleading ads are common. In this unprecedented, mind-boggling presidential campaign, it has been brutal for months. We can expect it to get worse and trickle down to even the smallest of races.
So now is the time for action.
Why do attack ads exist?
Some pundits say because they work. But something more sinister is going on here. What has become of our society? There are those who think that this country has not been so divided since the Civil War, and we agree.
The Outer Banks Voice, an online newspaper, called this out recently by showing a flyer (see below) sent to some Dare County voters attacking one of the candidates seeking to represent our state Senate District 6, Democrat Brownie Futrell.
Sent out by the Republican Party of North Carolina with the disclaimer, “Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee,” this is a blatant ploy that the candidate can hide behind.
Common decency and respect, while historically often lacking in politics, are all but gone.
Many politicians who proclaim to have religious or humanistic values see nothing wrong with vicious, mean-spirited attack ads if these tactics will get them elected. They are missing the big picture.
Reflect for a moment. Who are the heroes of our society these days that people look up to and admire? Few are politicians of any party, and that, sadly, is tearing us apart.
Before the smirks start at what a naive editorial this is, ask yourself how many smart, caring young people conclude after seeing attack ads that they would never enter politics to better people’s lives?
It’s time to call out the political establishment.
By that we mean all politicians – regardless of their party affiliation. As the OBX Voice pointed out, Futrell’s Republican opponent, Sen. Bill Cook, the incumbent, was the victim of political attacks in his 2012 campaign. Cook, of all people, should be sensitive to this recent mailer. Futrell has had a long, distinguished career in the newspaper business, which includes running the smallest newspaper at that time—The Washington Daily News– to win a Pulitzer Prize.
In the flyer, Futrell is accused of being corrupt because he donated some money to three politicians who, much later, had legal problems. He is not the person portrayed in that flyer.
In eastern North Carolina, we have an open race for both the House and the Senate seats. Cook and Futrell have differences of opinion on many issues: HB 2, how education should be funded, offshore drilling, and state support of solar power to name a few.
They should stick to debating and providing their insight on these and other issues and avoid ad hominem attacks.
They should also tell those outsiders who want to do the dirty work to stay out of the way and let the voters decide the issues. This applies to both parties.
What can regular people do?
When these attack ads appear, contact the candidates the ads are supporting and let them know these ads are hurting their chances of being elected. If enough folks contact these candidates, they may see the light.
It’s time for those who support decency, civil discourse and respect to stand up and affirm that these attack ads created by anonymous political hack operatives will not be tolerated.
If enough people do so, they so, these sleazy ads will cease.
If politicians take the high road, maybe they will once again join the ranks of leaders Americans admire.
First published in the September 2016 Ocracoke Observer.