As we enter the final stretch to election day, nasty campaigning has reached full throttle. No matter the rationale behind this negative form of vote-getting, none of it provides any value to a voter’s decision-making process, unless sensationalism is the new guidepost.
Attacking a candidate’s character offers no insight into a candidate’s platform, or how that individual might govern in a city, county or on a school board.
Being bombarded by mailers, blogs, tweets and biased interviews that spew anti-gay, anti-government, racist accusations just jam the political airways, drowning out any intelligent dialogue. Why are we putting up with these ugly tactics in our local elections? Have we simply become numb to it all?
This behavior tells us nothing about how a candidate plans to address the need for more housing, eliminate homelessness or improve mental health services in our community. We don’t learn anything about a candidate’s position on public transportation, redevelopment, or urban villages.
We don’t know how issues pertaining to teacher shortages, helping our children find their way back to classroom normalcy post pandemic or solving funding disparities will be addresses in the vitriol of verbal fighting.
Instead, voters fumble toward election day relying on a curated general election information guide.
In recent weeks, trash talk is coming at us from all directions. Special interest groups, political action committees (PACs) and acolytes are pumping up the volume.
In the San Jose mayor’s race, an East San Jose school board member allegedly called Santa Clara County Supervisor and mayoral hopeful Cindy Chavez a communist during a Vietnamese media interview, claiming she would eliminate the Vietnamese voice. Bryan Do’s actions enraged Democratic leaders calling out his comments “racially-charged.”
Then there’s the mayor’s race in Santa Clara that has everyone’s head spinning. Anthony Becker who’s running against Mayor Lisa Gillmor, has faced death threats and homophobic slurs calling him the “monkeypox candidate” from commenters on a blog supported by Gillmor. Gillmor has not condemned the blogger, but BAYMEC– one of the most prominent LGBTQ political organizations in the region– has denounced her.
And we are not through yet. The San Jose City Council race for District 3 has gone off the rails with a mailer from Irene Smith’s campaign. She is running against Omar Torres. The mailer shows three well-dressed white women on one side and two men of color on the other side with the words “defund the police” and “radical” next to Torres and former DA candidate Sajid Khan. The mailer drew outrage in the community.
Khan, a Muslim attorney, who lost his race in the June primary election, has being vilified as a radical during the post-primary election cycle. He is not running for any office, yet he’s been featured on at least two mailers linking him to candidates of color like Torres and Senate candidate Aisha Wahab.
At what point do we as a society start collaborating instead of colliding with one another? When do we rise up and replace campaign bad-mouthing with information that educates? Negative campaigning isn’t new, but over the last few years it has exploded into a fervor.
As Becker said, “This is why people don’t run for office, why people don’t want to serve their communities. Words do matter.”
Yes they do — through our voice, on paper and all the social platforms that gobble up our day. If we continue along this path, individuals with integrity will think twice about running for office or going into public service.
No one wants a job that includes death threats, racism and harassment. If quality candidates become a rare species, we are left with a sobering thought: who are we electing?