Seeing the Round Corners

November 5, 2018

A column from this writer’s archives in November 2010 follows, but first these comments.

Not many readers would disagree that this year’s midterm elections have been the most negative in this country’s modern-day history, even more so than when the original column appeared in 2010. The sad “commentary” on today’s negative ads are they have been replaced by ads which contain blatantly false information with local newscasters used (without permission) to give credibility.

While Louisiana politics doesn't hold a candle to some of the antics of Colorado politicians, one Louisiana politician was so brazen as to come up with this for a bumper sticker during his comeback try:  VOTE FOR THE CROOK, IT'S THE RIGHT THING TO DO!!

The column from 2010 will hopefully give readers cause to think about how many politicians get put out of office only to try and reinvent themselves down the road to come back on the political scene.

November 8, 2010 


The most negative campaign in American politics is now in the history books, at least until the next election.  Of course, that type of statement should probably always be qualified with an after thought of “in recallable memory,” because we Americans are oh so quick to forget past performance of elected officials.  Anyone doubting that assessment would be in the Republican crowd still confounded by the 2010 elections they were sure would result in all Democrats being swept from office, “throw’em all out.” 

No, this is not an edition of bashing this writer’s former political party – the “Dems” can’t seem to get it right either on so many fronts, so please read this entire edition. 

It is always amusing to see just how quickly ideas such as “won’t go negative” or “no negative campaigning” said with downright reverence take hold and then sweep the country.

Governor-elect John Hickenlooper’s recent campaign is an example of such a strategy really working well for a candidate.  BUT, would it have worked so well had his opponents not been who they were – duds is a nice way of putting it!!  Hickenlooper’s opponents allowed him to set himself apart, almost in a separate campaign, from them and enabled him to portray just why and how he could rescue the City of Denver from the not only dire fiscal shape it was in, but the negative national image it suffered from when he came into office.  Telling of that last aspect is the lack of a really impressive job offer for Denver’s former mayor after leaving office.  No one was exactly beating the door down to hire the former “walking” campaigner, not even the shoe manufacturer whose shoes he wore out during his “walking into office” campaign. 

Now for a few remarks on what the anti-negative campaigning gets you the American/Colorado voter. 

To set the tone, this writer is no fan of Denver’s lone newspaper, the Denver Post, so take this to heart, it is an earth shattering day to be quoting the Post’s editorial bunch, but truer words are not to be found:  “It’s not negative campaigning if the charges against the opponent are factual and relevant to the office at stake.”  From the same editorial, “Negative campaigning is perfectly fair if the charges against the opponent are factual and relevant to the office.” 

It is also fair to say, in this writer’s opinion, it is not exactly effective to campaign after the election as was done in the 2006 election in Arapahoe County.  The treasurer’s race in Arapahoe County pitted former City of Centennial treasurer Doug Milliken against Republican Sue Sandstrom, an avowed opponent of negative campaigning.  Sandstrom lost the 2006 election by 2,000 plus votes. 

Most Arapahoe County voters were shocked to learn less than a month after election day that their new county treasurer was a bit on the weak side in the competency and qualifications department. 

Milliken’s claims during his campaign included being responsible for the $5.2 million City of Centennial budget.  After the campaign, the Mayor of Centennial stated Milliken had no part in it.   

Disclosure of Milliken’s 1993 bankruptcy and that his present home was in foreclosure did nothing to instill confidence in the treasurer-elect, nor did the reported mishandling of a wire transfer while Centennial treasurer that delayed payroll by a day or two. 

In December of 2006, a month after the election, Arapahoe County Commissioners increased the bond for the county treasurer from $10,000.00 to $500,000.00, ostensibly implementing a plan already in the works and not “necessarily reflecting a lack of confidence in the treasurer-elect.” 

Are voters forgiving or just maybe forgetful?  Apparently both as Milliken, a Democrat running in a mentality of “sweep the Democrats and incumbents out of office” was just re-elected to a four-year term!  His opponent was again the same as in 2006, Republican Sue Sandstrom.!!!!

This writer reached the “sick of negative ads” level just as other voters did in the recent elections, but voters must realize the choice can be worse than “not advantageous,” in the zeal against negative ads.

Recall for a moment the 2008 election year.  The guilt by association card was played by the McCain campaign in linking then Senator Obama to the radical Reverend Jeremiah Wright (infamous ranting Chicago preacher), 60’s terrorist Bill Ayers and indicted, now convicted developer/shady dealer Tony Rezko. 

In a place and time other than on the heels of the George W. Bush years, then Senator Obama’s association with the likes of Wright, Ayers and Rezko would have probably been destructive to his campaign, and we would be hailing to President McCain, a really, really scary thought, with the idea of Vice President Sarah Palin enough to make this writer head for parts outside the U.S. of A.  Like it or not, association(s) with disreputable characters bring into question a candidate’s judgment and character regardless of the time frame – presently ongoing or 20 years prior. 

The Obama “momentum” was successful in downplaying the association with those three, or perhaps a better description would be to say “successfully swept the associations under the rug.”  Granted, President Obama’s association with the three took place in his early days of Chicago politics, except for the on-going association with Wright, but it is amazing just how willing American voters were to ignore such sleazy past associations by its future President. 

Are American Voters too willing to accept a less than competent candidate for office just because an opponent “goes negative.”  Running for office, like it or not, comes with certain responsibilities.  Refusing to disclose information that directly demonstrates a candidate’s lack of competency or moral character cannot and should not be avoided for fear of being accused of going negative.  To do so is professional negligence – in and of itself a flaw, and demonstrates inability to exercise needed action.  To publicize the truth is not a smear tactic – it should be accepted as an obligation by the candidate, just as speaking the truth about one’s self is an obligation, or at least should be.   

Here in Gilpin County, not much has surfaced just yet on campaign tactics, but from the 2008 election, voters were more than incensed over promises by the encumbent District 3 Commissioner candidate who promised numerous constituents before the election he would have Gilpin County Road & Bridge plow their snowy driveways, only to find Road & Bridge refused to do so – found out too late when their vote could not be retracted. 

Now, think about that – should you be angrier because an elected official bought votes with such a promise, or that a Gilpin citizen’s vote could be bought with such a lame (and illegal) promise?  It takes two, as the cliché goes.  As the “going negative” rhetoric kicks in, would it still be negative for a candidate to disclose such occurred?   

Mark Twain once said:  “The rule is perfect – in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.”

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