Opinion: It’s time to change the game

As I write this column, the election has not concluded so I am not aware of the winners or the losers. In fact, we’ll actually send this column to press prior to the final vote being certified. With that as context, I want to share some observations about the unacceptable negatively-focused campaigning by so many running for office as well as the lack of effectiveness shown by those currently holding office.

Some years back, political and campaign consultants came to the realization that negative campaigning works as a way to characterize the opponent and get their candidate elected. It was no longer a good idea to extol the virtues of your candidate. Rather, just boldly and specifically highlight the foibles of your opponent, however big, small or irrelevant they may be.

Negative campaigning has become the standard of advertising. It is now quite possible for a large portion of the electorate to go without learning a thing about their candidate’s abilities or positions, except that they must be the opposite of the other candidate’s unthinkable or unfortunate exploits.

Consider for a moment the consequences of this relentlessly nauseating and annoying tactic. No longer is it acceptable for an elected official from the near side of the aisle to meet and discuss significant issues with a member from the far side of the aisle, lest they be positioned in the next election (at times by activists on both sides) as being soft or not a true member of the party.

While all of this mud-slinging and negative positioning is fodder that makes television stations and direct mailers very flush during elections, it is paralyzing for the rest of the economy. At the very time we need numerous solutions to varying economic challenges with support from both sides of the proverbial aisle, it has become politically dangerous for virtually all of the candidates trying to get elected to engage in any meaningful discourse with the “opposition.”

Historically, there have been few times in our history when faced with challenging and difficult times that the solution came solely from the brain trust of one political party or the other. Rather, it was the collaboration of statesmen and stateswomen who had the best interest of the state and the country at heart, and who had the wherewithal to collaborate with those they knew had to be a part of the remedy.

Without question, this polarizing behavior the last couple of years has prolonged the recessionary economy and we should not stand for it any longer. Whether on the local political scene where our neighbors and friends are villainized to an almost unrecognizable nature, or during national debates where the other side can’t wait to be interviewed afterwards to throw stones, it is clear that we are without the advancement of ideas through political leadership that could begin to get us out of this mess.

Can anyone help me understand how this is helpful to small business entrepreneurs who want to create jobs? Or how it will help to free up capital markets necessary for our businesses to grow and expand? Point out how the proposed solutions will help to assure we have the resources to educate our children. I don’t see it happening and suggest we need to change the game. 

The “Occupy” folks have gotten the attention of the nation. Unfortunately, they are woefully disorganized and without focus. In the end, they are no more effective than the pot-shot taking and polarizing politicians.

If elected officials and candidates are paying attention because of the Occupy folks, then it is time the business community speaks up and let them know we can’t continue to accept this recalcitrant approach to policy making. We must put aside our own conservative/liberal tendencies and let them know now is the time for them to work jointly and collaboratively to reduce the runaway regulation and tax constraints that keep business from expanding and growing. We are past the point of ignoring the bashing and name calling. For those who won on Tuesday, I ask you to change the game. Collaborate. Get outside the box and lead the community out of this morass, and get Southwest Washington back to the level of economic viability of which we are capable.