The world of politics has always been a nasty business. If you look back at political cartoons over 100 years ago, you'll see that throwing darts at your opponent is not a new phenomenon. But I think we may be elevating the art of dirty politics to a new level and for the life of me, I still don't understand the process.
Of course, the obvious answer is that negative campaigning proves effective. I wish that were not the case but study after study - despite what you may hear - proves that damaging your opponent works better than touting your own strengths. And let me add that this political rule applies not just in this country but around the world.
The presidential race will increasingly turn nasty as the time ticks down to November. The race for governor in Missouri is laced with accusations and mud-slinging and the primaries are still weeks away. Wait until the general election rolls around!
Even here in our own county, the hotly-contested race for sheriff has taken on a nasty tone.
In the coming weeks, Missouri will clearly be a major focus in the presidential race. Both sides concede that Missouri is a toss-up this November and as a bellwether state, there will be ample focus on getting our votes. A new poll out this week puts Sen. John McCain slightly ahead of Sen. Barack Obama but those numbers are meaningless at this point. Obama's campaign announced this week that they were going to triple their staff in Missouri and open 30 field offices throughout the state manned by 150 paid staffers.
Believe me, that many feet on the ground will provide ample negative news that will fill the headlines and the airwaves in the coming months. And though the overwhelming majority of us moan against negative campaigns, it won't go away. It will only increase.
From my experience in the private sector, this much I have learned. If two people are competing for the same job, each tries to stress their strengths and abilities. Never have I experienced someone trashing someone else in order to gain an advantage in a job selection. If two ballplayers are competing for a position, one doesn't go to the coach or manager to trash the other. They simply put their best foot forward and try to highlight their benefits to the team.
The examples are endless. Yet it seems that only in the world of politics does the negative trump the positive. And for that, we have ourselves to blame.
But the real downside to this negative trend in politics is most obvious. Regardless of the outcome of any election, the winner will always carry some negative baggage into office as a result of the campaigning process. And the public will always carry some of those negative images forever.
Is this truly the best way to elect our leaders? Have we become so jaded and so partisan that we allow the negative to prevail over the positive?
I fear the answer to the first question is no and the second question is yes.