Go ugly, earlier

The Madison County Record Oct. 15, 2006, 8:56am

In politics, there's nothing quite like a last impression. Especially when you're making it for someone else.

With days running short and electioneering running hot, it's finally attack time of this campaign season, and it couldn't arrive too soon. The please-vote-me-by-association "endorsed" bit as well as its plain vanilla brethren "best qualified" and "most experienced" have had their run. Now it's time to get to the grooviest details-- the negative ones.

If you want to really effect change in politics, you don't just tell voters why-- you tell them why not.

This position will come as plain blasphemous to most of the chattering classes in Southern Illinois. Egged on by "good government" goo-goos who never got the one about "sticks and stones," they're gearing up to feign outrage over the salvo of negative television spots and mailers soon to inundate voters. As always-- "special interest money" will play the bogeyman, "disillusioning" the people and "shaking their confidence" in good 'ole government.

Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. We publish this ode to negative campaigning, offering it a hearty welcome to the 2006 cycle, because it represents the only means by which voters might ever change the status quo.

Hamby-pamby handshake agreements not to sling mud universally benefit incumbents. They, in effect, neuter cooperating challengers, for whom explaining why they'd be "better" truly requires elaborating on why their opponent or their party/organization was "bad" when given the chance.

In 2002, Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich leveraged George Ryan's woes to end a three decade streak of GOP rule in Springfield. Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier rode a wave of voter disenchantment with the trial bar-backed Madison County judiciary to victory in 2004, an improbable Republican victory in solid Democrat territory.

When private donors buck up and the campaign operatives take off the gloves, they do all of us a public service. Rather than "disillusion" voters, negative ads crystallize their choices. They help us judge, which is what responsible democracies do.

You don't have to be comfortable with their tone to accept that our reigning ruling classes, every once in a while at least, truly deserve the skewering.

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