Opinion: About Negative Campaigning

Letter to the editor: Without some kind of negative campaigning, incumbents would be essentially unbeatable.

By Douglas Home

Pursuant to Tuesday’s election results and recent articles and blogs regarding the dislike of negative campaign signs around Moraga, I would just like to raise a concept for everyone to consider.

Posting signs that read “Defeat Mendonca” is really no different than posting ones that read “No on Prop. 50.” As a candidate for political office, one must realize that they are making themselves the political commodity. As an incumbent, one must be prepared to run on his or her record and be willing to accept the fact that some people will not agree with the decisions they’ve made in their position. Stating  “No to X ” or “Defeat X ” on a 18” x 24” yard sign is done to simply grab your attention and hopefully get you to look into the issue or candidate further – and then make up your own mind. Apparently, this worked.

For those who insist on deeming this a personal attack issue, that idea is of your own making – and I couldn’t disagree more. You might consider that without some kind of negative campaigning, incumbents would be essentially unbeatable. Only those few who show up to Town Council meeting would ever see firsthand what their shortcomings are. And, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” … let’s not forget.
And so, congratulations are in order to Mr. Arth, Wykle and Metcalf – two of three who will be much-needed fresh faces on the Moraga Town Council. Govern well, gentlemen, in the interest of the majority of your citizenry, and with careful cost/benefit analyses. Pursue not personal agendas to the contrary. Moragans are paying attention.

Douglas Home

Regular Guy November 10, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Negative campaigning works. It has always worked. You probably concede that point but believe that negative campaigning is always bad. I contend that it's often a very good thing. Negative campaigning is valuable, perhaps even essential. Government leaders, like business leaders, have many ways to create disasters and few ways to create success. Incompetence or dishonesty are very real dangers. It's entirely possible that a caretaker candidate would be preferable to a candidate whose ambitions are not accompanied by competence and honesty. In such a case negative campaigning would be the only effective tool available to the caretaker candidate.
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 07:36 PM
@RG: the question isn't whether it works or not, but whether it is appropriate for a "small town" city council race involving volunteer Town Council members, and more specifically what it says about the values of the group that whole heartedly supported the campaign. To CN's comment, it certainly sounds like lots of guilty rationalizations going on trying to justify the means.
Bailey Lee November 10, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Every politician is a volunteer. I didn't notice where a draft was set up for it.
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 08:33 PM
@BL: many larger city, and I believe all county, state, and federal elected officials are paid full time elected officials. MTC elected officials are "part-time" and serve unpaid.
Bailey Lee November 10, 2012 at 08:39 PM
That's correct and NONE OF THEM are drafted or coerced into "serving." To repeat, ALL of them are VOLUNTEERS, including the POTUS. Being unpaid is not a blank check or free pass.
Karen Lewis November 10, 2012 at 08:42 PM
@ 2nd Gen.: Moraga Town Coucil members are elected officials whether paid or not. The bar is not altered re: what is expected of them in their offical capacity. And, if you want credibility, don't make the mistake of applying individual Patch comments to perceived "groups" of people, and then generalizing based on your assumptions. That would be greatly appreciated.
Karen Lewis November 10, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Yes. But they are held to the same standard as reflected in the legal maxim: "Equity does not aid the volunteer."
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 09:03 PM
BL & Ms. Lewis: no one is suggesting that the standard of expectation be lowered or that citizens not voice their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with our volunteer TC. Given our small population, one would have hoped that the campaign discourse could have been more civilized. I can't see why anyone would subject themselves to the abuse of the last election, and how we expect "good candidates" to run if this is what we can expect in the future.
Karen Lewis November 10, 2012 at 09:48 PM
There was no abuse or insults. The signs "Dump X." were not very nice and were replaced early on with "Defeat X" signs which are reasonable. Obviously they weren't meant to say defeat her as a person. They meant defeat her bid for re-election. In countries without free speech one is not permitted to oppose a "candidate". Here we are and it is not mean. And beyond the signs there was a web site which in which everyone involved was committed to being accurate and avoid insults, ridicule, etc. on it... and did.
Karen Lewis November 10, 2012 at 09:54 PM
What I do think we can do to entice good candidates to run is to stay calm, learn how to talk about issues without hostility, and try to help the council members do the best job they can by being involved and informed ourselves. More respect and less polorization among all of us would help the entire process.
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Ms. Lewis, in response to your earlier comment about "don't make the mistake of applying individual Patch comments to perceived "groups" of people", I would say you are who you associate yourself with. If you don't want to be associated with the extremist behind the initial mean-spirited "dump Mendonca" campaign (and if you doubt whether they were mean-spirited or not, read the multitude of posts they left behind), then speak out against them and their extreme positions. To the question at hand (negative campaigning): In a small town such as Moraga, why would anyone would need to run AGAINST a specific candidate, rather than running for the candidate of their choice? Again, nobody questions the "right" to do this, just the values and judgements of those who do it.
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Agreed -
Karen Lewis November 10, 2012 at 10:20 PM
@2nd Gen. I am not who I associate with. If you solely judge me on that basis you won't know who I am. It may provide a bit of info. about me, but you can't tell if that info is accurate without talking to me. I did express my opinion in person to the person who made the "dump" signs. He thought my argument was reasonable and discontinued the signs. It is not that complicated if everyone stops arguing and assuming the other guy is awful. Find out first. He is actually a really nice guy, and on some issues important to each of us, we agree. I hear people villifying one another on the Patch comments almost daily. I don't think it helps us get to know each other or learn how to work together.
Karen Lewis November 10, 2012 at 10:22 PM
@2nd Gen.: Good to hear. Thanks.
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I only know you and other posters based on their comments, which means people should be careful about what they post because it leaves an impression. I agree 100% that civilized dialog is much better than partisan rancor, however it seems that the extremist are the loudest and most often voices heard. They need to be answered, or they begin to believe the echo chamber they live inside, and they bully those that oppose them into silence. I was not a Mendonca supporter, as much as I opposed the extremists who decided to wage war against her.
Bailey Lee November 10, 2012 at 11:01 PM
@2G: lead by example and GIVE...IT...A...REST...
2nd Generation Moraga November 10, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Feel free to stop reading @ anytime -
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 11, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I was having lunch with Queen Elizabeth the other day and said to her, "I just cannot stand name-droppers". "Me too, she said, and I particularly can't stand people that MUST have the last word!"
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 11, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Come on 2, you have to reign in this hyperbole. These folks got led down a rosy path and ended up with a bloody nose. They were angry and it showed. If you actually believe this is "sewer" level politics, you have led a cloistered life. I am asking you politely to take a deep breadth and let it go. You want folks to act like grown ups? Then lead by example. The Town's new Council can ill afford to start its new term with a mantle of antipathy weighing it down. I am with you on the 'as-is' solution. How do you stand on "Open Space"?
Douglas Home November 11, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Actually, I didn't need to discontinue the dump signs. They were all stolen within 24 hours (save 1) by people who launched a "vicious personal attack" on our First Amendment rights. Of course, people like 2nd Gen are perfectly okay with this since the thief was a volunteer.
karen November 11, 2012 at 07:03 PM
Whether you are for or against her, you do not have to be so mean. My children asked about these signs and I had to explain to them that some people in this town lack compassion for others. I believe that children learn compassion/empathy for others by seeing it modeled by others...shame on you.
Karen Lewis November 11, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Karen, Did you read my comment above? Here it is in part: The signs "Dump X." were not very nice and were replaced early on with "Defeat X" signs which are reasonable. Obviously they weren't meant to say defeat her as a person. They meant defeat her bid for re-election. In countries without free speech one is not permitted to oppose a "candidate". I did not want that candidate re-electied for very good and specific reasons. Without considering any of this, and without knowing me personally, you have told your children that I, because I agree with the sign's message, lack compassion and should be ashamed. So, sadly, you are teaching your children to be reactive and judgemental.
Karen Lewis November 11, 2012 at 07:46 PM
You failed to model the very compassion/empathy you describe when you responded to your children's questions.
Bailey Lee November 11, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Alas, the liberal/progressive conundrum---do as I say, not as I do.
Chris Gerding November 11, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Love it, Bailey. Make that drinks and appetizers.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop November 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM
And we wonder why youngsters today fail to think critically. It is because their parents never learned to do so. I cannot seem to imagine her children (no age mentioned) asking about the 'meaning' of a political sign. Are these high school kids? Middle school? I'm having trouble believing the scenario here, seems fabricated, using a child to make a very peculiar point about an adult in a highly contested political race. The irony here is fascinating and tremendously revealing about "K". Ms 'pot' meet councilwoman 'kettle'. Politics have become so cynical and aggressively negative that major news sources regularly have 'veracity assessments' about advertising and debate statements during campaigns. This assumes that the campaigns/candidates are all going to lie as they trash their opponents, they just want to measure 'how much' they trampled the truth while slandering their opponents. Yikes! You may want to hold off attempting to explain politically based motives to children, particularly in the context of how 'compassionate' they are.
Douglas Home November 12, 2012 at 04:40 AM
I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that read BEAT ARMY. It made me sick to my stomach that somebody would launch such a vicious a personal smear campaign against those poor soldiers.
Nice and Rough November 12, 2012 at 05:04 AM
Loony birds flock together.
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