Posted on

Hoping they were and will be honest in office

Local elected officials need only be knowledgeable and conscientious and they’ll probably do the best they can with the circumstances they have. But when it comes to Congress, we voters like to know exactly what sort of directives a candidate’s conscience is giving.
The issues can be abstract and the arguments idealistic. A Congressman on either side of the abortion issue might know all there is to know about sociology, science or scripture, but how will he vote? Each of us has our own opinions, and we want them backed up by the Feds.
In short, we don’t vote for good deciders so much as we vote for people with whom we agree. Or should I say, people who agree with us.
And perhaps that’s why we can go to the polls and vote for Congressional candidates who campaign as if they have no conscience at all.
The election is over. I voted. I’m pleased with the outcome as I believe my own ideology has a greater chance of succeeding in Congress. However, I’m pretty disgusted with the process.
There’s a stack of propaganda on my desk from candidates and their parties that I feel needs some explaining.
The Ninth District has had its share of fireworks over the years. Michael Bailey spiced it up with his anti-abortion ads. I would call them pro-life ads if they depicted the joys of childhood and parenting rather than the horrors of partial-birth abortion. Bailey was criticized for using his candidacy only as a vehicle for the ads. He rejected that criticism but dropped the ads in his last bid for Congress when he made his strongest showing at the polls despite losing to Hill.
Perhaps discontinuing an ad campaign that was generally offensive to voters yielded dividends for Bailey.
Then, more than four years ago, the Mike Sodrel and Baron Hill battles began, and they’ve gotten increasingly ugly and misleading. This time around ‘Millionaire Mike’ or ‘Wrong-Side Sodrel’ gave us the ‘Sodrel Stick Up’ at the gas pumps while ‘Liberal Baron Hill’ had ‘Gone Washington’ to run the Ninth District ‘like it is San Francisco.’
That’s just the postal advertising paid for and cooked up by national committees of the Democratic and Republican parties. It’s advertising for which the candidates take no responsibility. But to paraphrase a recent New York Times editorial on election tomfoolery, Hill and Sodrel may not own the ads but those ads belong to them.
The television ads are the truly priceless mudslinging misrepresentations because many were funded by the candidates who are then required to take responsibility for the content. And usually they do so with confident audio tracks proclaiming their endorsement of the ominous music, grainy images and distorted facts.
It’s possible that either candidate will take issue with my assertions that they funded deliberately misleading advertising. By the same token, it’s guaranteed that each will agree with me that his opponent did just that.
Sodrel has declined to congratulate Hill. He said he felt the gesture would be phony. It was nice to finally hear something sincere.
I’ve interviewed both Hill and Sodrel in the past. Sodrel told me that he prefers not to say negative things about Hill whom he called, ‘my opponent.’ Instead, he paid a production company to do that.
Once, as a very green reporter, I asked Hill why he ran an ‘attack ad’ criticizing Bailey when a poll showed Hill with a 20-point lead. I regret the use of the term ‘attack ad,’ but it’s fair to say it was critical. Hill’s tone turned hostile and he said he didn’t view the ad as negative.
If you’ve never met these two men, you sure wouldn’t know anything about them from the advertising.
Sodrel shares absolutely nothing in common with Mr. Smith who went to Washington. He’s a wealthy businessman and has always enjoyed a life of prosperity. This doesn’t make him a bad guy, but I would suggest that it has resulted in some unrealistic ideas about minimum wage, sales tax and health insurance to name a few.
Hill is no Mr. Smith either. He’s a seasoned politician in ways both good and ways that are less so.
As for Hill being liberal, he’s not even liberal at a buffet table, though one ad, again not authorized by Sodrel, showed a photo of Hill so stretched it appeared he had been gorging himself at chicken dinners.
If anything, Hill is uncomfortably image conscious while Sodrel is image careless, once illegally parking his trademark campaign 18-wheeler in downtown Corydon. Clearly he’s not concerned about his gas bill.
Sodrel said he isn’t ruling out a rematch just yet. Hill said he is glad to be invited back to Washington after the voters gave him a break, a decision he said he respected.
Whatever the future holds, these gentlemen would do well to learn a lesson from Kentucky’s Anne Northup. The five-term Congresswoman has finally lost an election after delivering negative campaign ad after negative campaign ad. In time, voters were bound to realize the common denominator in all this nastiness was Northup. It didn’t hurt that ad watches by Louisville news media succeeded in shedding light on some of her more reprehensible ‘fact’ twisting.
Northup’s own advertising neglected some of her greatest accomplishments in favor of taking swipes at her challenger.
Her opponent, John Yarmuth, was perhaps a little naive at the outset. He quickly found himself on the defensive and maybe this time it was the best place to be.
However, according to the Associated Press, ‘Strategists and political ad analysts generally agree that negative ads work because negative opinions linger with voters longer than positive opinions.’ But, the AP cautions, ‘a tremendous amount of distrust in the process is created in the long run.’
Voters in this district will forget the gory details. But our negative opinions of the campaign tactics will linger. We won’t forget that this race was ugly, misleading and prioritized discrediting opponents over encouraging support.