By Steve Brawner
© 2014 by Steve Brawner Communications, Inc.
This being a nonpresidential election, President Obama is not on the ballot, but you wouldn’t know it from this year’s campaign.
Obama and his “job-killing agenda” apparently are running for U.S. Senate, along with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Obama is running for Congress. He’s running for lieutenant governor. He’s probably running for your local offices too.
There’s a reason why Arkansas Republicans continue to tie Democrats to the unpopular president: It works politically. For decades, the state GOP scratched its head as Democrats continued to dominate Arkansas while much of the rest of the South became Republican. Then in 2010 Arkansans changed allegiances. President Obama and Obamacare were like a light switch that flipped the state from Democrat to Republican.
It’s fair game for Republicans to point out that President Obama is a Democrat in a state where Obama is unpopular. Democrats in Congress will certainly be more supportive of his policies than Republicans will. It’s a shorthand way to draw a distinction.
But we’ve heard Obama’s name an awful lot since 2008, and frankly, it’s becoming a little much. He’ll be out of office in two years. I mean, the lieutenant governor’s race? Really?
Perhaps the guilt-by-association campaign reached its height, or depth, with a National Rifle Association radio ad supporting Rep. Tom Cotton in his race against Sen. Mark Pryor. In the accusatory tone to which we’ve all grown sadly accustomed, a voice says Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, sleeps behind armed guards but wants to take away our guns, so vote for Cotton.
The ad is ridiculous on so many levels. While Bloomberg is an aggressive pro-gun control activist with a lot of money, he’s no longer an elected official, and when he was, it was in New York City. His main connection to Arkansas is a clumsy ad buy he made earlier this campaign cycle against Cotton’s opponent, Sen. Mark Pryor, because he thought PRYOR was too pro-gun. A conservative and pro-gun family member of mine was so insulted by the implication that we Arkies can’t tell Bloomberg from Pryor that he declared the other day that Cotton had lost his vote.
The modern campaign is a far cry from the Illinois Senate election of 1858, when Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas faced off in a series of debates where one spoke for 60 minutes, the other spoke for 90 minutes, and the first spoke for 30 minutes. Surely with that much time at the podium, the two were forced to offer more than just denunciations of President Buchanan. Somehow, the voters in the audience were able to pay attention and grasp the issues despite not having grown up with broadband internet access – or maybe that was the reason they could.
Campaigns are supposed to be job interviews between employers (the voters) and potential employees (the candidates). If you were looking for someone to represent your company, would you hire him or her if they spent the entire interview criticizing the other prospect waiting on a metal folding chair in the hallway?
Voters, more so than candidates, are responsible for lifting the campaign’s tone. A prospective employee will do what is necessary to get the job, and if the employer is only swayed by nastiness and innuendo, well, soon word will spread through the employment line.
So maybe Arkansas voters could follow the examples set by Lincoln, Douglas and the state of Illinois. AETN will televise a series of debates Oct. 13-17 for the major offices and include all the candidates, including the Libertarian and Green Party nominees. (Full disclosure: I’m a questioner in two of those debates.) A televised Senate debate is planned for the state’s ABC affiliates Oct. 14.
Political elites believe most of us are not very engaged. They think we can be manipulated. Let’s prove them wrong. There’s a month left until the election. Let’s conduct our own job interviews and hire who we think are the best candidates based on who they are, the policies they support, and whether they are competent enough to do the job.
That’s what we would do with any employee that matters. Don’t these?