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Here in Florida, as it is in many other states, it is primary season where political parties select their candidates to run in November. Unlike the general election, I tend to believe primaries bring out the worst in candidates who inevitably turn to back-stabbing. Back in 1966, Ronald Reagan coined his famous eleventh commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Reagan obviously didn't foresee the 21st century as mudslinging is now the norm regardless of what side you are on.
In Florida, for example, the Republicans are at each other's throats over the governor's race, Agriculture Commissioner, and for Attorney General. The GOP is not alone though, as the Democrats also pummel their party opponents below the belt. It's all rather distasteful. The dirt dug up during the primaries will obviously re-surface by the opposing party following the primaries.
American mudslinging has been around at least since the 19th century, but it rose to prominence in 1988 when former President Richard Nixon (a victim himself of dirty politics) advised VP George H.W. Bush to take off the kid-gloves in his bid for the presidency. Not only did he attack his Democrat opponent Gov. Michael Dukakis, then Governor of Massachusetts, but he also assailed Sen. Bob Dole's record in the Republican primary, angering Dole greatly. Since then, attack politics has been the norm, be it in the general election or the primary.
In my little part of the world, here in Florida, candidates use the airwaves, Internet, and newspapers to cast aspersions against each other.
In the Republican governor's race, there is obviously no love lost between Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Likewise, the Democrats have their own battle royale consisting of Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King, and Philip Levine. The candidates from both parties do not mince words over their opponents. Their campaigns are the most visible in the state.
For Florida Attorney General, the Republicans have Ashley Moody versus Frank White; the Democrats have Sean Shaw versus Ryan Torrens. The Republicans have been running more commercials as the campaigns heat up; one side accuses the other of being a former liberal Democrat, the other side mocks the lack of experience of the other.
In the Florida House contests in Pinellas County, there are tight races in the Republican primaries for District 64, pitting incumbent Jamie Grant against newcomer Terry Power, and District 66, matching Nick DiCeglie versus Berny Jacques. Believe me, there is no love lost between these candidates as evidenced by their advertising.
Beyond the primaries we have Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) running for Bill Nelson's (D) Senate seat. Both sides are already accusing the other of foul play and the public really doesn't know who to believe.
I suspect Florida is not alone in such venomous attacks between candidates, and it represents the ugly side of politics, turning voters off and driving them away from their voting precincts in disgust. As a result, the voters do not truly know the positions and accomplishments of the candidates, just the hate and misinformation. After primary season, the candidates want to kiss and makeup in a show of unity for the party. Are we really supposed to believe this? Hardly.
How about a simple side-by-side comparison conducted by a neutral third party? I cannot help but believe such a comparison would clear up a lot of misinterpretations. It should include the candidates' personal and professional background, their positions on the various issues of the day, and who is endorsing them. Such a subjective analysis cannot be performed by the news media though as they are already too biased.
Another problem is the long cycle for American elections. In many cases, candidates begin to run as soon as the current election is completed. I have watched many local candidates wear themselves out over an 18–24 month campaign, and deplete financial resources which could be used for better purposes. The public is also burned out by the television ads, telephone solicitations, and door-knocking. This is sheer madness. Understand this, the only group who prospers from long campaigns is the news media whose bread-and-butter is electoral advertising. Want to curb the media's political influence? Shorten the campaigns to three or six months. By doing so, maybe we can minimize the vicious rhetoric and regain our sanity.
Keep the Faith!
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Mr. Bryce is a freelance writer residing in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.
Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.