It’s finally over – what did we learn?

"Requiem for All Saints and All Souls" (Houma)
November 2, 2010
Karl Frazier
November 4, 2010

Now that the elections are finally over (thank heaven), I’d like to talk about what we saw and what we didn’t see.

What we saw is race after race turn into mud-slinging contests. For example, in the case of Vitter versus Melancon, Vitter didn’t run on his accomplishments (there may be a reason for that), he ran against Obama and trashed Melancon. Remember the Vitter ad of the immigrants coming through the chain link fence into America and the first thing they see is a Melancon welcoming sign? Or Melancon ads reminding folks of Vitter’s foray into the wonderful world of prostitution?

Then there was the Fayard-Dardenne duel in the sun.

Neither ran on their own merits. The general idea both campaigns put forth was simple: “My opponent has warped ideas.” What didn’t get much airtime was, “Let me tell you what I can do for you.”

Don’t misunderstand me. In political races, as well as in non-election years, the generally accepted way of doing politics is to trash whoever is on the other side of the fence. In elections, you would be hard put to find a campaign manager who wouldn’t tell you that dirty politics doesn’t work. It does. And that’s why we see so much of it. And each election, it seems to be increasing.

For the life of me, I can’t think of one election this election cycle in which a candidate ran strictly on what he or she has accomplished or will attempt to accomplish if elected. Every ad was about the failures of the other guy or gal, and more often than not, the accusations were of a personal nature, not just political.

So here’s what we didn’t see. We didn’t see people willing to run ethical or moral campaigns. We didn’t see people running on their merits. And we sure in heck didn’t see people running on their character because the moment they start throwing rotten eggs at their opponents, they prove that they are willing to subjugate character and virtue over winning.

What they could do – should do – is a rather novel idea in 21st century politics: Tell me what you REALISTICALLY can do for me, for my family, for my town, for my state, for the nation. Don’t try to win by belittling someone else.

Now I know this sounds incredibly naïve of me, but think about it for a moment. What we now have is a system in which the person who throws the most dirt usually wins. Shouldn’t we demand more of people who want to run for civic office?

Shouldn’t the people who want to hold office act ethically and morally? Is that too high a standard? Bottom line: People who are willing to talk about others aren’t acting according to Christian tenets (or any other religion I know). Matter of fact, what I saw this election season, and for quite a few previous ones, was people acting like they weren’t Christians at all, yet they often spoke boldly of their religious backgrounds. What do they do then, go to church and later in the day write scathing personal attacks on their opponents?

I am not going to write that we should expect more from people running for office. Nothing is going to change because the amoral approach works too darn well. What I hope you glean from today’s column is this: Don’t be particularly happy if your candidate won. Because if he or she did, he or she probably did it by talking bad about someone else. And anyone who is willing to do that to win an election is not in it for you or for me. They are in it for themselves.

The major reason why they are willing to compromise whatever values they had before entering politics may be found in one final cynical question: Ever meet a poor politician?

Note: In previous weeks, I have written about the plight of Nicholls in light of the budget cuts. Since those columns, Gov. Jindal has said that the heads of educational institutions and medical facilities should quit whining and provide leadership. That said, I ask this of the governor: Could you see your way clear to stop fund raising across the country to spend a little time providing that leadership? You are, after all, governor of this state. Is Louisiana less important than your ambitions?