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Archive for Sunday, November 3, 2002

A rough business

November 3, 2002

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The rough atmosphere of modern political campaigns discourages many would-be candidates from entering the fray.

Politics is a strange, tough, take-no-prisoners business. If a person is not prepared to handle this kind of environment, he or she should not become a candidate.

Honesty and fairness are not a part of the game. In too many cases, candidates seem to do or say whatever is necessary to win and then worry about how to sidestep or forget those pledges and promises if they are elected. Bill Clinton provided an excellent example of this technique.

Also, in this winner-take-all atmosphere, it seems it is far wiser for candidates to violate campaign contribution laws and, in so doing, take in more money to improve their chances of winning election. Risking being held accountable for illegal contributions is a gamble, but even if someone in some political office is nailed, the penalty usually is nothing more than a slap on the wrist or a minor fine.

Seldom is a prison sentence handed out, and even if it is, it isn't difficult to find a fall guy to take the punishment while the winning candidate remains secure in his or her new office. Has any winning candidate ever been removed from office because he or she or the campaign officials accepted funding in violation of federal laws? The answer is "no."

So, why not go ahead and break the law if that's the way to win? Add to this the matter of candidates or their surrogates being blatantly dishonest or bending the facts when campaigning.

If our system of government is to be successful, it is important for voters to be informed and for properly motivated men and women to make the sacrifice to be a candidate. If we don't have good candidates, we're in trouble. But as tough as campaigns have become, who wants to accept the abuse, the time away from their businesses and families, the stress on their marriages and other "costs" associated with being a candidate for elective office?

The public should be quick to thank those who have made those sacrifices. Few, if any, individuals enter a political contest with the idea of losing. However, in each contested race, there's a winner and a loser (which, in itself, is a bad term) and each candidate must be prepared to graciously accept either victory or defeat.

The big challenge is how to attract good men and women to volunteer to be candidates and then, once the battle is engaged, getting the candidates and their political allies to conduct their campaigns in an honest and respectful manner.

Recent campaigns are likely to have soured many individuals from seeking public office, and this is not good for the country.

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