Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

The negative campaign


Rick Esenberg comments on negative political campaigning that goes too far.

Over the past few months, I spoke frequently around the state in support of the marriage amendment. One of the pleasures of doing so was, oddly enough, getting to meet my opponents. I debated many intelligent and honest people of good faith and heart with whom it was a privilege to be able to discuss the issues.

We disagreed but tried to do so with some measure of charity. We did not impugn each other’s motives and tried hard not to say things that were demonstrably false or deliberately deceitful.

But the consultants took over. In the final hours of the campaign, an automated calling campaign claiming that a “no” vote would prevent activist judges from determining the meaning of marriage which, according to the call, was a “union of one man and one woman.”

Fair Wisconsin, the organization coordinating the campaign against the amendment, was identified at the end of the call as its source.

While it may be (if you take each sentence out of context and provide the most sympathetic reading) that the calls were not lies, this was an undeniable attempt to persuade voters that “no” meant “yes.”

I’m proud to say that the one campaign I worked on this year could have misconstrued our opponent’s vote on an important issue but didn’t. Too many political campaigns cannot say the same thing.

Negative campaigning, that is campaigning that accurately depicts your opponent’s record, is not bad in itself. It serves a useful purpose in that it gives the voter valuable information. But campaigning that deliberately twists and distorts the record serves no one, and the media and the bloggers should hold those campaigns accountable.

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