Campaign 2010 is so dirty because Democrats are so desperate. Gutter politics sinks lower, gets dirtier, and goes slimier in proportion to the number of officeholders in trouble. The negative ads and inflammatory rhetoric targeting Republican challengers are thus symptoms of GOP success.
The most deceitful advertisement comes from Orlando Congressman Alan Grayson, a one-term incumbent who recently polled at just 30% in his race against Republican challenger Daniel Webster. Dubbing Webster “Taliban Dan,” Grayson infamously splices clips from a Webster talk at a Christian conference in which his opponent counsels fathers not to seize upon the Biblical verse that instructs wives to submit to their husbands. But Grayson’s ad manipulates Webster’s words to make it appear as if he had said the very opposite of what he had actually said. It is, quite plainly, the work of a liar.
Rather than shun the Florida fabulist as a political pariah, Vice President Joe Biden traveled to his district on Monday to help raise $30,000 for Grayson by posing for donor pictures.
Democrat Jack Conway has consistently trailed Republican Rand Paul in Kentucky’s Senate race, so no one should be surprised to see Paul the subject of an attack ad. But no one could have foreseen an ad that described him as a kidnapper who forced his female victim to worship a deity known as Aqua Buddha, thereby casting him as an enemy of Christianity. The tabloidish commercial prompted the Republican to bypass a handshake with Conway after a recent debate.
After throwing all that mud, Conway still trails in the polls. A mudslinger’s dirt bombs may or may not hit the target, but they inevitably soil the mudslinger.
Asians, strangely, have become a Democratic Party punching bag. Orange County Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, facing a tough contest from immigrant businessman Van Tran, sounded the alarm over Spanish-language Univision, claiming, “The Vietnamese and the Republicans are, with an intensity, trying to take away this seat—this seat [from which] we have done so much for our community—take away this seat from us and give it to this Van Tran, who is very anti-immigrant and very anti-Hispanic.”
In a television spot exemplifying the neo-yellow-peril, embattled House Democrat Zack Space cites opponent Bob Gibbs’s support of free trade as proof that he wants to send jobs from Ohio to China. Graphically, an ominous dragon appears; sonically, the narrator speaks Mandarin: “As they say in China, xie, xie Mr. Gibbs.”
China has become such a radioactive attack point that Alex Giannoulias, Illinois’ Democrat nominee for Senate, has accused his Republican opponent of “economic treason” for raising money from businessmen in China. Never mind that the businessmen are Americans, that they donated only $6,000, and that Giannoulias himself ventured into Canada to raise money from trial lawyers. Even the former occupant of this seat solicited donations from Americans abroad before becoming the 44th president. According to Giannoulias, Mark Kirk’s raising of $6,000 from overseas sources “can be nothing but an act of economic treason.”
Republicans can’t say they weren’t warned. The tortoise-and-hare Massachusetts Senate race between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley, which turned ugly after the presumptive winner’s poll numbers nosedived in January, foreshadowed the party’s descent into the gutter. A mailer by the Massachusetts Democratic Party claimed, “1736 Women Were Raped in Massachusetts in 2008. Scott Brown Wants Hospitals to Turn Them All Away.”
Democrats don’t have a monopoly on sewer politics. Underhanded electioneering is one of the few areas where legitimate bipartisanship reigns. But when a party faces the unknown for upwards of one-hundred House members and the dozen Senate seats in play, the dirty campaigning will necessarily be one-sided. What does it profit a politician to gain his dignity while losing a $174,000-per-year government job?
Clinton pollster Doug Schoen conceded to Politico, “There is a tendency now in the Democratic Party not only to disagree with, but to belittle political opponents.” The Republicans aren’t merely wrong, but evil, stupid, and, especially, hysterical. This last epithet, a favorite stereotype of misogynists, helps explain why 2010’s “gender gap” favors Republicans. In a piece of projection on Republican “mean girls,” New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd dubbed Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle “weird,” “wacky,” “nutty,” “the Red Queen of the Mad Hatter tea party,” and “the inebriated lady in a country club bar.”
All this thesaurus-consulted redundancy is supposed to say something about Angle and not Dowd.
When Doug Schoen’s client won the presidency, the campaign boiled down to four words: “It’s the economy, stupid.” But when your party controls Capitol Hill and the White House, and unemployment approaches 10 percent, the deficit eclipses $1 trillion, and GDP grows anemically, it’s about everything except the sputtering economy. It’s about Aqua Buddha, witchcraft, and Ephesians 5:24. It’s us-Hispanics-versus-them-Vietnamese and a Chinaman stole your job. Only in such a feverish climate could a career politician’s campaign call his self-funded opponent a “whore” and a native-born American call a Vietnamese refugee “anti-immigrant.”
It’s the indecency, stupid.