There’s a Facebook meme going around that thanks those journalists who have the nerve to tell the truth, and it concludes with “We need you more than ever!”
With certain rare exception, none of y’all want to hear the truth! You want to hear your “truth.” More specifically, you want someone to confirm your world view by telling you exactly what you want to hear. If telling the truth was the key to the journalistic kingdom, I’d be the most popular columnist on the planet. But instead, I get besieged by stupid people, the occasional death threat, and a former incompetent columnist who’s thoroughly obsessed with me.
Since there’s no point in further bitching, let’s move on!
And the best “you can’t handle the journalistic truth” example is any campaigning candidate. Because the second we dare to question their strategy; A: They go nuts; B: Their followers go nuts; or C: All of the above.
“But Jeff! Do you always have to be the rabble rouser? If your intercession upsets them so, why bother critiquing candidates?”
First, I gotta be me. And second, though there’s certainly merit to that question, it’s a great test. If a candidate can’t handle a simple campaign criticism, one can only imagine the problems they’ll encounter if they do manage to get elected.
Have any of you ever been to overflow board or city council meeting? Journalists ain’t nuthin’ compared to a mob of angry constituents.
Ah! But on the other hand, if the candidate adjusts, or they come back with questions, that shows a capacity to roll with those inevitable political punches, which bodes very well for the future.
C’mon! If a candidate can’t run a competent campaign, what on God’s green earth makes anyone think they’ll be able to effectively govern? So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of current campaign cases that have me banging my head against the wall.
Don’t ever mention your opponent by name!
Though this is one of the cardinal rules of campaigning, most candidates completely ignore it. But on a reasonably level electoral playing field, the candidate who creates the most voter impressions tends to prevail. So, why would you want to give your opponent any free advertising?
Here’s a perfect example of what I speak:
Not only does 14th Congressional District Democratic contender Lauren Underwood mention incumbent Randy Hultgren by name, but she posts a reasonably flattering picture of him, too. This is complete and utter campaign insanity, especially when you consider that most Facebookers aren’t even going to bother to read the fine print.
They’ll simply skim down the page thinking, “Oh! What a nice picture of Congressman Hultgren.” I gotta tell ya, there’s nothing quite like getting your opponent to campaign for you!
If you’re going to do this kind of thing, which I’d never recommend, be smart enough to post a picture that makes your opponent look really bad.
Though going negative can work in a congressional campaign, it generally falls flat when you’re in the district minority party as Underwood is. Again, you have to appeal to those coveted swing voters to pull off an upset and negativity tends to make those voters stay home.
If Underwood prevails in November, it will be by sheer luck because she’s running one of the worst campaigns I’ve ever seen.
A consistent theme in my impending ‘So You Want to Win a Local Election” book (late October release) is those generally lazy voters are always looking for an easy reason to dismiss you. They don’t want to perform any kind of due diligence! Once again, on a level pitch, they’ll vote for the hopeful with whom they’d most like to have a beer.
But when I recently chimed in on Elgin’s 43rd District State Rep race, the Republican candidate’s wife tore into me like a hyena on a wounded wildebeest. The major bone of contention was the candidate’s disheveled and unkempt appearance while marching in Elgin’s Fourth of July parade.
And this is such a simple one, too folks!
Warm weather political parade attire consists of a polo shirt with the candidate’s name emblazoned on it, a pair of casual dress slacks, and black sneakers that look like real shoes. Put more simply, dress a level above the rabble.
Marching in an untucked plaid short sleeve button-down shirt that looks like it’s two sizes too small, shorts, and ratty old running shoes ain’t gonna cut it.
“But Jeff! Aren’t you kind of nitpicking?” No! Think about it!
This candidate is running against incumbent Anna Moeller who’s not only a savvy campaigner, but she presents very well. To add insult to injury, the 43rd district is at least 60 percent Democrat and Ms. Moeller has the entire weight of the Madigan ground game behind her.
That means her Republican opponent has absolutely no margin for error. And if you can’t get something as simple as your parade appearance right, then why are you wasting the voters’ time?
I will be very surprised if this candidate gets 33 percent of the November vote.
Look, I’m not trying to browbeat these eager folks into submission, but as anyone who’s ever done it will attest, a political campaign is beyond hard work. So, it greatly pains me to see someone who’s willing to make the effort fall completely flat because their ego won’t allow them to see the truth, and they can’t get the simplest things right.