May the Best Candidate Be Elected

Smear campaigns have been the key to many victorious political campaigns, but often at the expense of the public good. These campaigns are usually extensively funded and aggressively criticize an opponent personally or misrepresent his or her policies. Smear campaigns can destroy the reputation of a good politician. If well executed, they can mobilize masses of voters to one side of the election. And effective or not, smear campaigns are creeping into this year’s election. A negative image is being cast on each candidate, with the a focus on their questionable scandals rather than on who will be the best leader of the United States of America, as if the public no longer cares about the policies of candidates. For its own benefit, the American public needs to make an informed decision on November 4. But in becoming informed, it should be more concerned with the candidates’ political plans and abilities than the often false smears put against them. The race for the Democratic party presidential nomination between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been especially dirty. Enthused at the start of the election by the large number of qualified candidates in this election, I remember thinking that this election was going to be one of the greatest displays of democracy in the history of our country. After an unpopular president, some of the best politicians from all over the country announced their candidacy for office. We Americans, it seemed, would truly be getting our pick of the best candidates for president. Instead, the election has dissembled into a battle of cheap shots and attacks. The Democratic primary has reached the point of absurdity. Obama was accused of being anti-American after a video on Youtube surfaced of him not saluting the American flag during the national anthem. The racially-charged, anti-American and anti-Hillary rants of Obama’s radical pastor, the Reverend Jeverend Wright, furthered these claims. Obama’s Arabic middle name, Hussein, has also created undue controversy. So has his Kenyan father, who himself is Muslim. Other accusations of his having terrorist connections were bolstered with “evidence” that he visited the house of two 1960s radicals, one of the most infamous participants in the violent anti-war movement and that he funded an organization that rejects Israel’s existence. Obama further worsened matters for himself with an ineloquent comment about the guns and piety of small-town Americans when he said, “And it’s not surprising that [small town Americans] get bitter, and they cling to guns, or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Hillary has called Obama an elitist, and, at a recent debate, Obama had to answer a question about why he dressed the way he does, another question regarding his “elitism.” Some of these accusations may be rooted in truth; some are blatantly fictional. Hillary has had to field fewer accusations directly from her opponent, but she still has faced serious criticism from the media. She has also lost popularity for some of her aggressive attacks. This is not to say that all attacks have come from the candidates themselves; nevertheless, smear campaigns have shifted the focus of the election from honest politics to the discovery and the invention of questionably relevant scandals. The Democratic Party has also lashed out against Republican nominee John McCain. In an aggressive email to party faithfuls titled “How We’ll Beat McCain,” party chairman Howard Dean told the Democrats of the need to fight the Republicans: “We stand—right now—start fighting…We must be read to fight back, and fight back hard, today.” Dean continued in the email to make ridiculous accusations against McCain., a non-partisan, non-profit website operated out of the University of Pennsylvania, analyzes the many twisted comments in the email. For instance, Dean accused McCain of turning a blind eye in the Abramoff lobbyist scandal. In reality, McCain, as chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, thoroughly investigated the matter, which led to the jail sentences of Abramoff and Congressman Bob Ney, as well as the ultimate downfall of many other Republican congressmen. McCain did everything he could, given his jurisdiction in his committee. Dean also took a McCain quote out of context and used it against the Republican nominee, saying, “On the war, McCain scoffed at Bush’s call to leave troops for 50 years, saying ‘Make it a hundred! ” McCain actually said that a presence of troops would be acceptable as long no Americans are being killed or harmed: “Make it a hundred. … We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed of wounded or killed.” Clearly, the forces of misleading information are at work here. An election that began with so much potential has become so negative. There must be a way to solve the problem. The attacks will never stop if the public and media continue to punish the ones attacked. Politicians will never stop their smear campaigns if they are rewarded for them. Organizations like have done a good job of sorting out truths from falsehoods, but the public reads newspapers and watches television. The mass media, thus, should be wary of these false attacks and be more thorough in its fact-checking. Negativism and conspiracy mongering are making the decision for voters, especially less informed ones. We can’t afford a lackluster president right now, and it’s time the best candidate is actually elected. Sebastian Becker is a one-year ?Lower.