Political parties keep on sinking

Published 3:16 am Wednesday, November 6, 2002

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
"However combinations or associations of [factions] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government - destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." - George Washington
Thank Heaven that's over!
I have to say that this year's political candidates did a wonderful job of keeping the state's reputation intact. They may have even raised the bar for those brave enough to run in 2006.
Dirty campaigning is as much a part of the political scene in Alabama as back-room handshakes and "executive sessions." The gluttony of half-truths, exaggerations, finger-pointing, name-calling and outright lies reached new heights in 2002. From the race for governor right down to state representative races, this year's candidates can be proud of the depths they sank to in an attempt to garner a few more votes.
At least this year Alabama was not alone. Campaigns in New York, California and almost every state in between got a full dose of negative campaign ads. There was even a candidate in Georgia who accused his opponent of 'voting against the Boy Scouts.'
When every issue is seen as black and white, good versus evil, right and wrong, simply based on party affiliation we will see candidates paint each other as criminals, sinners and dummies.
We were warned that this would happen. The father of our country and its first president recognized the rivalry that was forming in Congress by the end of his first term. In his final address in 1797, he urged other leaders to remove themselves from 'excessive party spirit and geographical distinctions.' Obviously, they did not listen.
It is easy to blame the two-party system and their candidates for the onslaught of negative advertising. While most of the blame is theirs to take, many voters share the blame for taking these ads at face value and passing on the negative messages without even questioning the content.
That candidate in Georgia didn't vote against the Boy Scouts, he voted against a bill. I wonder how many voters looked to find out what that bill actually said.
Perhaps it is time for our state to look at campaign reform. Let's take the ugly signs off our roadways, get the negative ads off the air and put our candidates in the spotlight for a change. Campaigns should be about speeches, platforms, debates and going door to door. That is the only way voters will truly learn about the candidates and enable themselves to make informed decisions.
While I maintain some hope that this year's elected officials will be different, recent history is not on our side as both parties have let the people of this state down over the past 20 years.
The truth is both candidates for governor have hinted at doing the right things when not too busy talking about each other. Both Seigelman and Riley have talked of education funding, attracting quality jobs and rewriting the constitution. I believe both men have the ability and ambition to be memorable leaders for positive change in our state.
Beneath all the negative ads and shameless fundraising, politicians are men and women who sought out careers in public service. Deep down, most of the candidates, Republican and Democrat, want to be remembered for the postive things they have done, not for the negative things they have said. But, for voters, its getting harder and harder to recognize that.

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