Calvin Freiburger

Note to Would-Be Politicians: You Can’t Protect Yourself from Mudslinging by Ignoring It

Posted on October 9 2010 9:00 am
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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We talk a lot about left-wing smears against conservative and Republican candidates, but not so much about how to overcome them. Sean Hannity posed that question to Sarah Palin last night, and in my humble opinion, the governor’s answer left something to be desired:

PALIN: Yes, well, remember, what they are doing. This is coming from Obama’s presidential campaign book, which goes back to Alinsky’s campaign book, “Rules for Radicals,” which Obama and Michelle Obama have quoted from. And that is, the politics of personal destruction perhaps will be the only thing that you have on your opponent so you make things up about them.

You lie, you spin, you do whatever you can and you use a complicit media to assist you in this, a left-wing media to assist you in this. So these candidates just need to be prepared for those rules of radical to be applied to them. They need to stay on message, they need to stay optimistic. They need to remind the American public what the time-tested truths are that created this great nation.

Those time-tested truths that rely on a smaller, smarter government, not growing government and over-reach of government. Staying on message. Reminding Americans what we already know but needing to have that confirmation, that affirmation that the candidate knows it too and promises to fulfill those time-tested truths.

To be sure, there’s a lot to be said for optimism and maintaining a steady core message. People want their candidates to be likeable, well-adjusted, and seem like they know what they’re talking about. But here Palin seems to be echoing a prevalent school of thought that says this is all a candidate needs to do, and while Palin herself is no stranger to responding to criticism head-on, many in that school hold that there’s actually something wrong with fighting back against, or even acknowledging at all, an opponent’s attacks.

Taking the time to address personal attacks and explain how slimy they are is said to be “getting in the gutter,” “going negative,” or any number of idiotic phrases overpaid pollsters and strategists have inflicted upon American politics. Because conservative politicians tend to be easily led by whatever conventional wisdom is repeated the loudest and most frequently, they simplistically assume that voters will be turned off by any discussion of ugliness in politics.

But is that true?

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