David Reynolds | Failed campaigns
In less than four weeks we will know who will be the next governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We will know whether the winner is Mr. McDonnell or Mr. Deeds. However, we already know the losers. It is you and I.
Yes, the voters have been chosen by the two campaign staffs to be the losers. And it won’t get any better for us between now and November 3rd. Trust me.
The two candidates have failed to spell out their differences – at least those which have anything to do with governing. They have failed to inform. And according to my political bible, that is a sin.
After spending millions of dollars we know little more than what we did before the mud wrestling season began. A lowest common denominator campaign will do that. Much heat, little light. No wonder only roughly half of those eligible to vote do so. Potential voters have been turned off.
A good campaign is one designed to turn voters on. To educate them. It gives us a valuable insight on how the winner will govern. This is not a good campaign.
Senior campaign staff members go from war to war, knowing, as do most generals, just how to fight the last war. And, of course, they are winners in no more than half of their battles. And when they lose, they privately blame the horse, never fellow trainers or jockeys. Still candidates keep hiring these kids.
Don’t tell me about PolSci 101. I took the course. The professor said that “politics ain’t beanbag,” that it is a hardball sport where anything goes. But in winning, what have the candidates won? I can not forget the words of the late Hamilton Jordan, a self-proclaimed “political animal” and campaign whiz-kid, who at the ripe old age of 32 after getting his man from Georgia into the White House, was finally able to sit in the Oval Office and ask, “What do we do now?”
That’s the problem! Campaign staffs only know how to spend our donated dollars. They don’t know how best to spend our tax dollars. During my taxpaying lifetime I always checked the little box on IRS Form 1040 that allowed $3 for financing presidential campaigns. I know it is late in life. But it is never too late to break a bad habit.
All Americans, including Virginians. deserve better. We deserve political theater that has more than one act. We have lost Act II, Governing, because Act I is the same as Act III, The Campaign That Never Ends.
This is all so sad. The campaign kids are playing with fire. Democracies can not exist without informed electorates. The kids reject the reason why the great American experiment is still alive. We are able to cherry pick ideas from both major political parties. In Virginia we don’t even print the words “Democrat” or “Republican” on campaign signs! Why the missing words? Neither has four letters. Yet party affiliation can reveal more than the gotcha politics polluting today’s Virginia’s airwaves.
Any good teacher or mother knows the answer to our problem. As soon as you start talking down to a student or a child you have lost them. Maybe candidates should only hire mothers and teachers.
Yes, talking down is the problem. It is when you tell the voter you can build more roads with less money; or that jobs is the key issue, when 93% of Virginians have jobs; or that we should return to a system of private toll roads; or that regional solutions will unite Virginians; or that North Carolina is not whipping the economic daylights out of us because it has better community colleges and research parks; or that our gridlock roads are not as crippling to Virginia’s economy as West Virginia’s mountains are to theirs; or digging up an old thesis is what counts when the only thing that counts is what is best for all Virginians.
You get the picture. The two campaigns think that everyone has an attention span of thirty seconds. Or less. You don’t. Or you would not have read this far. Maybe we should ban ads during certain times. Sorry, I’m stepping on the First Amendment. Senators McCain and Feingold have already done that. They call it “campaign finance reform.” I call it a loss of freedom. Next year the Supreme Court will decide who is right.
Meanwhile, Virginians should be discussing fiscal solutions to our education and transportation needs, plus: why independent cities can’t support themselves; why we don’t have strong area governments; why the state is still in the booze business; why we create more commercial real estate than needed; why we have lame duck governors; why the income tax is not progressive; why Richmond’s political gridlock is creating road gridlock; why we can’t budget for the bad times as well as we do for the good times; and, why the state keeps shortchanging its localities, thus preventing Virginia from being a true commonwealth.
Of course, none of this is new. The only thing fresh is the mud. The old mud was used up being thrown at Abe Lincoln. But, then again, I’m an optimist, or maybe a dreamer. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “Some see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”
- Column by David Reynolds