Muckraking in the New Millenium

Posted Oct 19, 2002
Last Updated Oct 30, 2011

Election time is around the corner and political campaigns are ready to stir. As an American citizen, I can’t help the feeling of impending annoyance with the inevitable cutting-edge slander-type campaigning we’ll hear.

I’m reminded of a Saturday Night Live that aired several years ago when Dana Carvey hosted the show after he had left the SNL crew. There was a skit where Al Franken satired negative campaigning by reporting that George Pataki had campaigned on the notion that Mario Cuomo was a serial murderer.

While we’ve all become accustomed to muckraking, there comes a point where the voters ought to seriously cast doubt on candidates who use negative campaign tactics. Consider the fact that candidates are like potential employees. Consider what a professional employer would say to an applicant who is berating the other potential employees instead of expounding his own useful qualities. An employer would not hire the applicant unless the job was to find someone to fill a remote and dirty role.

There is a danger to political campaigns in regards to those who play honestly getting rubbed off by those who play it dirty. In a situation where a candidate runs on his own skills and talents against someone who constantly paints an ugly portrait of the honest candidate, there is the highly likely possibility for the honest character to be tainted by dishonesty.

And there is little current recourse for protecting the honest candidate at the current time. A public figure has little safety from political slander other than publicly denying the accusations. It belittles politics to the point where we expect the Yes-You-Did/No-I-Didn't game of vocal ping-pong.

So if my advice is worth anything, it’s to turn a thumb down to anyone who uses negative campaign tactics—especially in grassroots government like townships and villages. Let the candidates say what they can do and what they stand for. Don’t listen to them if they’re going act in ways that get kids put on the wall in elementary schools.

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Observations on American politics from a former journalist.

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