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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Unconscionable politics

The recent campaign tactics – specifically those relating to political advertisements – of both Democrats and Republicans cannot even be said to be a return to “politics as usual.” Ad campaigns being launched by people on both sides of the aisle are already sinking to hitherto unexplored levels of degradation. And once again, the U.S. people are the unwitting and, we hope, unwilling targets.

Already, Democrats and Republicans have unleashed a scathing set of commercials attacking opponents in upcoming elections and, in at least one case, those who aren’t even up for re-election for several more years. In South Dakota, for instance, conservative groups have been spending hundreds of thousands of dollars buying airtime with which they can attack Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who won’t be running for office again until 2004.

And in North Carolina, Democrats are running an advertisement that subtly berates Republican senatorial candidate Elizabeth Dole for reneging on her promise to suspend campaigning after Sept. 11 by pointing out she attended a fund-raiser at former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay’s house.

These despicable advertisements, like the recent campaign by the Office of National Drug Control Policy seeking to tie drug use to terrorism (“Anti-drug ad campaign is anti-democratic,” Feb. 7), create, distort and play on patriotism and fear rather than substantive issues.

The ad’s timing makes them doubly disturbing. Occurring so long before the actual elections – nearly three years in Daschle’s case – these new tactics threaten to make negative campaigning an absolute, both in time and severity. If politicians and political hopefuls begin attacking adversaries years before the campaign should even begin, how long will it be before campaigning becomes a constant? Additionally, those who can stomach using the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 as a platform from which to launch attacks on someone’s patriotism will not leave much of anything out of bounds.

This recent reprehensible behavior calls like never before for comprehensive campaign finance reform. Before candidates can launch campaigns of ads attacking their opponents, they need to be able to fund them. And under current laws – which have loopholes wide enough to sail an oil tanker through – campaign strategists are almost encouraged to turn election preparations into an affront to American ideals.

Citizens need to start putting enough pressure on their representatives so the perils of receiving soft money outweigh the obvious benefits. Moreover, it must be made clear that watered-down versions of campaign finance reform will not suffice. And since it already seems too late to save this round of elections, we urge readers to speak against despicable campaign tactics with their votes. If a politician stoops too low with their advertisements, he or she is unfit to represent citizens of this nation.

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