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Dancing on a String

Negative campaign tactics are expected, and the majority of the population not only dislikes it, but would rather hear issue-based dialogue and proposed solutions as opposed to demonizing and slander.

In response to former Republican Assemblyman John Behan reaching across party lines to endorse , Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop astutely noted that bi-partisanship is not a four-letter word. More importantly, he brought a salient point to the fore when stating that it used to be about putting hometown values first, voting for the person and not the party. 

When Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied in the Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton helped Jefferson prevail despite their many philosophical differences.  In fact, this led to Hamilton losing some prominence within his own party for doing so.  I’m so glad to see that times have changed.  You ought to be able to endorse who you believe is the best candidate for the job.  This choice should not be on the basis of whether someone has a D or an R at the end of their name or who has the better party logo for branding purposes. This is serious business. It affects our lives, our communities, and our future. 

So what is one of the reasons for this failure of civility? Our local political parties are partly to blame (the media just helps to fan the flames). Why?  Because instead of choosing the best candidates for office they spend most of the time vilifying the opposing side than coming up with any real solutions to the problems that our communities are faced with.  They need to create that animosity.  It keeps things going for them.  Being a former political insider, I understand that some of this is tangential to the world of political campaigning. While some negative campaign tactics are expected, the vast majority of the population not only dislikes it, but would rather hear issue-based dialogue and proposed solutions as opposed to demonizing and slander.

There will be some critics, especially those in certain cliques within the political parties and local groups who will argue that we need unity, and not dissention in the rank and file.  “You can’t talk badly about another fellow party member” they’ll say.  That’s precisely part of the problem.  People are so brainwashed by the hand that feeds, that they fall in line for fear of themselves or a family member losing a job.  They’ve become so dependent on the political parties for their job or that of their loved ones that they have given up their God-given right to make their own free choice.   And so they’ll go along with the status quo.   Make no mistake, I’m sure I’ll be branded a RINO or whatever clever name or acronym they can muster, but I’m simply someone who wants the best candidate for the job (regardless of gender, race, class, religious or political affiliation).  That used to be the American way, remember?  Or maybe it was just a dream.

The political parties are bad enough, but now we have some politically active groups to deal with too.  Indeed, some of these various politically oriented groups are no different.  Their members started off with good intentions because they wanted to get involved and do the right thing for their community.  When their rogue band of candidates actually began to win and influence the outcome of elections, they got a taste of politics, and realized that they liked it!  Their members, especially the leadership of these groups, were invited to more events and became accepted.  It’s kind of like when the high school outcast or misfit is invited to join the in-crowd.  I even recall a day in my former position when a high-level party member remarked to my friend and I regarding a couple of these groups, “Don’t worry, they are a bit disparate right now, but we’ll bring them into the fold.  They’ll fall in line and then they’ll become less militant and more volunteer oriented under us.”

These groups didn’t even realize that they were trading their strength for acknowledgement and perceived legitimacy.  Instead of reforming a failed system, they became less a faction within the party advocating for change, to now being part of the problems they once rallied against.  Now their voice has been muffled.  If a grassroots organization is going to be successful it has to be about more than the personal ambition of its leader or leadership.

I do expect more out of both Congressional candidates, Mr. Bishop and Randy Altschuler.  Both of them are highly intelligent, successful individuals, and they should be focusing on the issues and solutions that they have for the district rather than attacking one another.  Both candidates have their pluses and minuses to be sure, but at the end of the day it is up to them to be better men, for the sake of their communities and most importantly for their families.  As a political consultant I recommend that my clients take the high road.  Their opponent may be sleazy, unethical, or in cahoots with unscrupulous people, but it is best that the voters find this out for themselves.  Even if you were going to sling mud, I wouldn’t have my clients do it directly, I’d be a little more slick about it in terms of how information was released or leaked to the public.  They don’t want to hear your opinion of your opponent; they want to hear about you and what you stand for. 

In the end, the voters will ultimately decide for themselves who will be the better choice.  You should be upbeat and try to remain above the fray, stay calm and don’t overreact (that’s when mistakes are made), and always keep in mind that they probably wouldn’t be attacking you unless you were either winning or close to doing so.  Otherwise, you are just going to be dancing on their string.

Mr. Chapman is the President of Michael Chapman Communications, a boutique public relations & political consulting firm and is the former Executive Director of the Suffolk County Republican Committee.  He resides in Suffolk County, has a Master’s degree in Public Policy Administration from Stony Brook University and is a member of the American Association of Political Consultants. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeAChapman or become a Subscriber on Facebook

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