Nov 7, 2006

Mud-stained politics: Will dirty campaign ads keep voters home?

by Hilary Dyer, Opinion Editor

As citizens of a democratic society, we have been afforded a right not availed to most of the world’s population — the ability to vote for our political leaders.

Politicians in general don’t have an upstanding reputation in society. They are commonly deemed as insincere, yet highly motivated, individuals who are playing for their own selfish interests. Maybe I am clinging to youthful, idealistic hopes, but I still believe politicians should conduct themselves as persons of intellect and integrity and not as eighth graders during recess.

Admittedly, I laughed when I saw huge signs across the Virginia countryside with the words “We need Webb and Weed.”  Humorous, I thought, considering they are both anti-war Vietnam veterans (Al Weed is the Democrat running for Congress). I also found it comical that Allen’s campaign Web site pictures him standing in front of a football stadium and that Allen’s “trademark” is a football he carries around with him to campaign events. Kind of like the jock running for student body president.

George Allen and Jim Webb’s race for the Senate seat has proved to provide no end of entertainment, and disappointment, in past months. I’m not a resident of Virginia, so I won’t be voting for either. Nor do I affiliate with either’s political party. I am a registered Independent, and though my beliefs lean more towards one party than the other, I still believe in the importance of independent thought and coming to conclusions about issues from a biblical perspective, rather than toting a party line.

Unfortunately, political campaigns often turn into verbal sparring between the Democrat and Republican candidates, who inevitably target the other’s personal character. Allen and Webb’s campaign behavior has attracted national attention for its notoriously low blows.

In September, Allen and Webb dragged out a spat over whether or not Reagan was a proponent of Webb and if it was appropriate or not for Webb to use a letter from Reagan as part of his campaign, as reported by the Roanoke Times Web site. A legitimate concern, as it was in regard to a former President who is now deceased. It was probably the only warranted dispute concerning the campaign’s television advertisements.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch Web site, during a campaign event in August, Allen called a Webb aide “macaca.” Allen later apologized and told the public he didn’t intend the word to be used as a racial slur, but that it was simply a word he had “made up.” In the mean time, Webb’s campaign dug into Allen’s past and, in its next series of television ads, accused Allen of being a racist bigot, pointing to his behavior during his college years and the fact that he had put a Confederate flag on display in his law office.

The Allen campaign returned fire by airing a television advertisement that alleged Webb was a sexist.  The ad referred back to Webb’s military service and his treatment of women, alleging that Webb was a derogative male chauvinist. The Allen campaign also published sexually explicit excerpts taken from Webb’s novels, implying that the works were reflective of Webb’s personal convictions.

As of Sunday, Nov. 5, Webb leads Allen by a mere one percent (which is within the four percent margin for error), according to a poll compiled and published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Perhaps this is because both Allen and Webb are up to their necks in Virginia red clay.

Both men have displayed immature behavior during the campaign, leaving Virginia residents to question their honor and reliability. The candidates have spent their efforts on name-calling, ignoring their responsibility to inform the people of where they stand on the issues and how they intend to represent the people of Virginia.  Because of their failure to speak out on the issues, many residents will go to the polls voting according to the information they heard on the advertisements, rather than the truth.

While both candidates have highlighted certain issues in their campaign, their stance on other important issues has not been voiced to the public. Webb has won the approval of many due to his plans to make college tuition tax deductible and raise minimum wage in Virginia. At a time when Americans are growing tired of the war with Iraq, Webb advocates ending the war and bringing the troops home as soon as possible. Other issues that Webb is less likely to broadcast on television can be found on his campaign Web site. According to the site, Webb supports Roe vs. Wade and embryonic stem cell research.

Allen is a proponent of parental notification for minors seeking to obtain an abortion and sponsored the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. According to Allen’s Web site and his past voting record, Allen advocates cutting taxes and restricting government spending. Allen also is a strong proponent for amending the state constitution to define marriage and amending the national constitution to make the desecration of the American flag an illegal act.

Allen and Webb’s behavior during the campaign has the potential to keep some voter’s sitting at home on Election Day. If Virginia residents are like myself, they are disappointed in both candidates and are simply eager for Nov. 7 to pass so that they can turn on the television without being bombarded by politicians making personal smears.

Despite their shared enjoyment of mudslinging, Allen and Webb take significantly different stances on important issues – issues that require careful forethought and that certainly make the trip to the voting booths worthwhile.

Contact Hilary Dyer at hadyer@liberty.edu.

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