“One way to resist this troubling trend might be to save and sort all the political post cards you receive, and then vote for the candidates whose campaigns have cut down the fewest trees.”
Some political pundits and editorial writers argue that Donald J. Trump’s divisive rhetoric, and his often mean-spirited personal attacks on opponents and allies alike, is poisoning American politics. It is true Trump’s campaign seems utterly incapable of finding the high road. But it is also the case that in local and statewide elections across the country extreme negativity has been building for years.
Even in primary elections, Republicans and Democrats alike savagely attack their opponents with trumped up charges, exaggerations, mean-spirited personal assaults, and outright lies. Locally, Florida’s election laws allow dark money to flow into so-called electioneering communications organizations that are then free to blind-side one candidate without his or her opponents ever having to take responsibility for the negativity.
Last fall, for example, Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, a Tampa based ECO that received money from another ECO that received money from yet another ECO that received generous contributions from Florida Power & Light, mailed post cards to Vero Beach voters attacking Amelia Graves. In what was by Florida law a non-partisan election, the Tampa based ECO essentially attacked Graves for her party affiliation.
Two years ago, without any assistance from outside hatchet men, three local politicos, Indian River Shores Vice Mayor Gerry Weick, Scott Stradley and Dan Stump, all Republicans, mailed a post card to registered Democrats attacking their fellow Republican, Jay Kramer, for his party loyalties.
In 2012, Sandra Harpring, a former staffer for Debbie Mayfield, challenged Indian River County Elections Supervisor Leslie Swan. In support of Harpring, a Brandon based ECO with loose ties to Mayfield flooded Indian River County mail boxes with one attack after another on Swan’s competence and conservative credentials. Harpring claimed to have no connection with the Brandon based ECO that was attacking Swan, but her denials were hard to believe.
This year, the gutter-dwelling political hacks from Front Line Strategies have been advising Florida House of Representatives candidate Lange Sykes. Clearly, these career political consultants have convinced young Sykes he has a bright future in politics, if only he can win this election. To Sykes, the prize, a low-paying, part time job, is apparently worth engaging in the most degrading negativity. Sykes should be ashamed of himself. The “gentlemen” at Front Line Strategies should be ashamed, and any voter who buys into their poisonous brand of politics should be equally ashamed.
Two Republican primary opponents, who apparently have nothing compelling to offer in term of their own records, have taken the fine art of gutter politics to a new low. Day after day, the mailers continue to arrive from ECOs supporting Florida Senate candidates Debbie Mayfield and Rick Workman. Absent from their message is any discussion of the merits of the candidates they support. Instead, these ECOs focus their resources on trashing the other candidate. After reading these mailers, you almost feel like you need to attend a sweat lodge to cleanse yourself of all the dark energy.
You see, Trump is not so much poisoning political discourse as he is tapping into a deep well of existing negativity. Unless and until voters organize in their resistance to gutter politics, it will continue, and slime merchants like Front Line Strategies will continue enriching themselves by marketing politician who lack conviction, vision and purpose. One way to resist this troubling trend might be to save and sort all the political post cards you receive, and then vote for the candidates whose campaigns have cut down the fewest trees.