I read Friday of a new feature on the website maintained by the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper – one where readers can set things up so that reader comments from people who bother them will not turn up when the check out the website.
There are those who think it is a scary trend of the future. People can isolate themselves so thoroughly from anyone who does not agree with themselves that they can literally pretend the opposition doesn’t exist – and have that false belief reinforced by their “newspaper.”
BUT AS ONE who has watched political campaigns in recent decades, the idea of political people going out of their way to ignore the opposition is not new at all.
While the point of any political campaign is to persuade as many supporters to turn out and vote while discouraging opposition members from bothering, the trend these days is for campaigns to behave in ways that are meant to solely appeal to the supporters.
Because, after all, the opposition doesn’t really exist. So why bother catering to them, or doing anything meant to appease them? You might run the risk of turning off the people you are counting on to be your campaign’s ideological base.
The classic campaign in that mode when it comes to electoral politics in Illinois is the 1998 bid of Peter Fitzgerald for U.S. Senate.
FITZGERALD WAS A state senator who didn’t exactly have the most likeable personality, and he wasn’t the least bit blue-collar (his family owned a bank, although they managed to sell and become significantly wealthy long before economic conditions would put him in a situation similar to what is being endured these days by Democratic Senatenominee Alexi Giannoulias).
He wasn’t someone who could really relate to the masses. If Fitzgerald had been let loose to commingle amongst the Illinois population, there’s a good chance that Carol Moseley-Braun’s more charming personality would have prevailed.
So Fitzgerald was kept under heavy wraps, rarely exposed to any unsynmpathetic questioning, and would usually schedule his campaign “events” before crowds that were so controlled that they were ideological purists who were determined to dump the “stain” of anyone representing Illinois who wasn’t exactly like them.
Fitzgerald won that election, and got his one term in the U.S. Senate, where his not-so-likeable personality and a lack of interest in acting in ways to appease party leaders wound up resulting in him not seeking re-election.
NOW WHY AM I bothering to recall any of this?
It is because when I see and hear the recent actions and statements of GOP gubernatorial nominee William Brady, I can’t help but think he too is behaving in ways that are meant to get the party ideologues all worked up.
And if it means their campaign strategy is to keep the state senator from Bloomington a mystery to the bulk of Illinoisans – gambling that they won’t really care about if him if they don’t comprehend him fully – then so be it.
That probably is why many Republican partisans will now start deliberately ignoring the talk of former Gov. Jim Edgar, who in recent weeks has said he thinks Brady is wrong in thinking he can cut his way out of a $13 billion financial shortfall faced by Illinois government.
THAT IS WHY Brady probably will confine himself to events with the character of the recent Chicago tea party rallies he attended this week. He will claim he is introducing himself to Chicago, but he is picking an event so out of the character of the city’s mainstream that he’s really showing us how isolated he truly is from our city and its character.
It’s not just this issue. It’s also the matter of the income tax returns.
At least that is how I interpret Brady’s insistence that nobody has a right to see his income tax returns – despite the belief among many that people who seek political power ought to be a little more open than the typical Joe Schmoe in letting us know where their money comes from.
That is why many elected officials spent the past week making copies of their returns available. Usually, reading through these forms makes us realize that while these officials have significant goverrnment salaries, they don’t have much else. They really are living off that money – which they can lose at a moment’s notice come the next election cycle.
GOV. PAT QUINN, who says we will be allowed to see his returns sometime next week, is trying to hammer away at Brady – who claims that letting us see his full returns would give us so much information that his ties to certain businesses would be hurt.
Such stubbornness by Brady gives Quinn an issue to bang away with. But I’m sure Brady is going to go out of his way to appear only before crowds who are determined to have Anybody But Democrats win on Election Day, so they will ignore Brady’s attitude – even though I’m sure these same partisans would bash away at any Democrat arrogant enough to think that personal business connections were worth keeping secret.
Advice to Brady (although I’m sure he will ignore it): If you’re really serious about being governor, maybe you have to give up some of those business connections that your economic disclosure report hints at, but does not fully detail.
If you’re not willing to do that, then perhaps that is reason enough for the people of Illinois to vote ABB (Anyone But Brady) on Nov. 2.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Will William Brady keep himself isolated this campaign season among ideologues determined (http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/illinois/article_4de84f86-4772-5017-bb6b-47d0656edf8b.html) to ignore criticisms (http://www.sj-r.com/carousel/x1042536190/GOP-governor-candidate-wont-release-tax-returns) of the way he conducts himself?
If this were available in Illinois, we’d probably have people using it to avoid having to be made aware of this (http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2010/04/ignore_user_new_web_tool_lets.php) particular commentary.