Sunday, October 17, 2010

Is all fair in love, war …and politics?

In Olney recently, the Olney Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Olney Civic Association (GOCA) sponsored a debate amongst the four candidates for the two County Council seats in District 2 and 4.  The current candidates in District 4 are the incumbent, Nancy Navarro (D) and her challenger, David Horner (R).  In District 2 there is an open seat since Council member Knapp is stepping down.  Craig Rice recently won the Democratic primary and faced off against perennial candidate Robin Ficker (R).  I was there and share this information:

Topics for discussion were written down and submitted by members of the community to the moderators.  Most of the questions addressed current concerns, transportation, the budget, education – pretty much as expected – and the candidates gave their personal take on the issues.  Nancy Navarro seemed more comfortable in this atmosphere, than she had been when she ran in 2009 and skillfully answered most of her questions with focused replies.  Her opponent, who was unknown to most of the audience, used a lot of his time to give answers, but also told his biographical story to those in attendance.  

The District 2 candidates had been on the same stages before, at events during the Primary debates, when all candidates were included.   For the most part during those debates, there were few exchanges between these two candidates.  But on this night, things turned darkly different.  Robin Ficker departed from the topics at hand, gave many cursory answers and used much of his question answer time to make several personal attacks on his opponent, Craig Rice.  Robin spoke of some past problematic legal and personal issues that Craig had encountered and made inferences, with no proof, about under the table payments and other murky illegalities.  Stating that Ficker knew the issues had been resolved and were old news, Rice addressed the matters adequately in a tight-lipped controlled manner, although he indicated that he believed this should not be the forum for such discussions.  Since Craig’s wife, mother and two daughters were in the audience, this seemed to me, also most inappropriate.  The audience appeared stunned by these exchanges.

Recently State Senator Mike Lenett running in a tight race in District 19 against his opponent,  Delegate Roger Manno, launched an attack web site and sent out messages claiming duplicity on his opponents’ part for a past name change.  Dark inferences were made due to the fact that his birth name was Rajah; can terrorists be far behind? His High School sweetheart, whom he married a few years ago, was castigated for having been employed in NY by Lehman Brothers.  Mailings were distributed with fake newspaper headings, an action refuted as improper conduct by Delegate Susan Lee, also an attorney.  Many others in the county decried this action and sent out emails and made statements in opposition.  Roger, himself, put up a message on his website and sent out a long emotional email explaining his life story.  Lenetts’ extreme tactics apparently backfired as Manno prevailed in the election which was held a few days later.

Someone said all is fair in love and war -- and politics, but I wonder; in each of these incidents, how were the needs of the voter served by these insertions of negative information?  It is additionally said that negative campaigning works; in the age of the Tea Party as we are now seeing, absurd attacks are being made against good legislators on both sides and virulent ones against the President of the US.  One movement claims he was not born in this country; others tab him with various social or racist labels.  And -- of course the media picks up on dissention, at times appearing to fan the flames for positions taken by those on the extremes -- as we all know that colorful signs make for good TV. 

Where should we as a society draw the line?  When will the voting public turn away from this discourse?  Or is the public speaking out by just staying away from the polls, leaving only the fringes on either side to decide our future? 

Do you agree with me that we need good people from all political perspectives to make certain that the majority speaks out not, only in public, but also at the polls?

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