Thursday, June 13, 2013
Mojo has read with interest the flurry of exchanges over the ad Mr. Swatzel has produced attacking Mr. Scoville during the Democratic primary race. It has brought back memories. It was an exchange over who was telling the truth in an election campaign that led to Mojo writing to papers.
Mojo and I were once represented in Congress by John Spratt of York County. John is a man of immense integrity and was esteemed by folks on both sides of the aisle. Each election cycle, even when he had no opposition, letters attacking John appeared in the paper. The letters all sounded alike. And so I wrote a letter drawing on the only two Latin words I knew, Caveat Emptor (I only knew those words because it was the title of a high school yearbook), "buyer beware". Letter writers then began to attack me. The writers charged that if I knew Latin, I certainly would recognize Bona Fide ("true") letters. That perked Mojo up. He misheard and got upset because letter writers were writing about the "bones of fido". He jumped into the public discourse. By the time he had discovered his error, he found out he liked commenting about the public scene and seemed to know as much about what was going on as many of those who wrote letters.
As Mojo has followed the give and take over the ad, he has taken a broader look than specific content. Rather, he has studied the process that resulted in the ad. His conclusion is that this whole ad thing is a microcosm of what sometimes makes the election process distasteful leading to a cynicism that tends to drive folks from the polls.
The bottom line is that someone with outside resources enters the election debate with attack ads aimed at knocking a particular candidate out of the race. There is no attempt to be for something. The aim is only to be against and destroy.
According to earlier editions of the paper quoting campaign disclosure forms, neither candidate who ran against Mr. Scoville in the primary had raised enough money to pay for the kind of ad and yard signs I've seen attacking the Mayor. Obviously, money got dumped into the race from another source not reported on candidate's campaign disclosure forms.
The content of the ad is also telling. Change the people around the kitchen table and the ad is a reprise of the t.v. ad attacking the health care plan developed by Hillary Clinton some years ago. That says to Mojo that Mr. Swatzel is an operative with attack ad files. He has done this before. (Mojo has heard rumors about what was done to Vida Miller.)
The couple around the table also speaks volumes about Mr. Swatzel's approach. Instead of the man and woman used in the health care attack ad (familiar faces from product advertisements) we now see an African American couple. Mr. Swatzel, a white Republican from Murrells Inlet, knows that African Americans make up a large portion of the City of Georgetown Democratic Primary voters.
So, it seems to Mojo that Mr. Swatzel's long term goal is to have a Republican Mayor of Georgetown. He knocks out Mr. Scoville in the primary or primary run off. He believes that a Republican candidate can then win the whole thing (particularly with outside help that will attack the Democrat left standing). It seems to Mojo that at another level, this is a racist view of the election. Mr. Swatzel doesn't think an African American candidate can stand up to a well funded Republican candidate.
I agree with Mojo's assessment. No wonder the average voter feels used.
The election process works best when outside attack ads do not determine the outcome. The process is most healthy when candidates stand for what they are for and not for what they are against. The process increases voter confidence and participation when time is spent on discussing what will build up the community.
Unfortunately, elections at all levels seem to have become the property of paid political operatives like Mr. Swatzel who seem to major in tearing down rather than building up. A whole industry of paid political operatives has developed in our country.
Maybe some day we will recover the idea that public service is a high calling (in my religious tradition, the highest calling) and the election process that leads to that service will reflect our listening to our better angels. We can only hope.
The Rev. Dr. Jim Watkins and Mojo
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.