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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Politics has been reduced to nothing

As the 2010 gubernatorial campaign edges even closer, the political climate can now be described as more than heated, thanks to one simple source. Is it informative political discourse in order to help undecided voters? No. Is it award-winning investigative journalism that managed to uncover unethical information about a candidate? No. It’s an ad calling Governor Rick Perry a “coward” for not participating in a debate with Bill White (or talking to newspaper editorial boards). It’s almost worth jumping out of your seat: news about a newspaper ad. 

The ad ran in 24 separate newspapers on Aug. 24, and only the Houston Chronicle refused to run it. This is ironic considering how often the Chronicle is berated by many for being a left-leaning newspaper. 

Since most people in the immediate Houston area were unlikely to see it, the one page bit had a snapshot of Perry on a black background, captioned with coward in large white letters, followed by a small paragraph explaining the justification at using such strong and obscene language, including the line “Tell Rick Perry to stop cowering and face Texans like a man.” I suppose they intended to bring Perry’s masculinity into question with that, causing me to imagine similar verbal trades coming from middle school boys. 

 If you want to get into the nitty gritty, Perry won’t debate White because White hasn’t published his tax records past 2004. White was Deputy U.S. Secretary in the 1990’s, and apparently that’s worth refusing to debate so much that your opponents (more accurately, an independent group who favors your opponents) will begin the name game. 

This is mudslinging at its textbook definition. The makers of the ad could have avoided the ensuing backlash by making a positive ad about Bill White, or simply donating to his campaign instead of using the money to run lame ads in newspapers. 

Instead they put another drop of water in the already overflowing bucket of petty political strife. Can the Republicans and Democrats get any closer to the Hatfields and McCoys? If you’re not familiar with the analogy, it’s a story of two feuding families who over decades and decades forget the very reason they oppose one another and eventually fight for no other reason than the sake of doing so. 

And of course what is the media doing as a result? The conservative sources are pointing out this radical injustice made by the liberal media (because of course only liberals use name calling), and the liberal sources are explicitly pointing out many things that Perry has refused to disclose in response to attacks on White (because it’s okay to call someone a name if you can flip the argument). 

Sadly, this is what politics has been reduced to — ad hominem attacks. It shouldn’t be so hard to wonder why so many people are apathetic to vote, let alone register to do so. Candidates spend too much time reducing themselves to using ad hominem attacks, or the popular alternative of demonizing the other on hot button issues such as gay rights or immigration. 

David Haydon is a political science junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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