• 64°

General election takes to the air waves soon

By By Steve Flowers
As this campaign year develops there are several interesting observations. One is as I predicted the primaries were negative. However "you ain't seen nothing yet." Wait until the general election. In October and November you will see some brutally tough ads on television.
Why, do you ask, are they so vicious and negative? Because it works. They stir the candidate's stalwart supporters to work harder and be sure to vote and the independent voters, who are less educated, believe the preposterous negative advertisements and sway with the flow, so the last negative ad they happen to see they vote against the slandered candidate. Remember the old George Wallace theory that more people vote against someone than for someone. He instinctively knew before polling that negative worked.
More sophisticated voters who get turned off by the negative ads will simply stay home. Some ads are designed to accomplish this purpose. If polling data shows that more independent voters are trending toward one candidate, their opponent will start attack ads intending to turn these independent voters off to the "mess" and acrimony between the candidates and thus they will not vote for either of the rascals.
This has all changed since I first began in politics. When I was first elected to the Legislature in 1982 it was assumed that when a person threw mud they were desperately behind and their futile mudslinging always seemed to backfire. If you were the subject of mudslinging, especially late in the campaign, the rule of thumb was you ignored it and took the high road and won overwhelmingly. Today's theory is that if you get hit you've got to hit back immediately or the voter will believe the negative accusation is true. For example, if your opponent hits you with an ad saying you slapped a child then you immediately respond with no you did not but he slapped his mother.
The old days were better. The ignoring and taking the high road approach was illuminated brilliantly by Big Jim Folsom. Folsom would say to crowds on the stump, "You know my opponents say bad things about old Big Jim, but you know what my mama used to tell me? She said if someone throws mud on your white shirt don't try to clean it right away. It will only smear, but if you ignore it in a few days the mud will dry and you can just thump it off."
Another observation I have made this year is that many candidates will get involved with other people's races. As a boy growing up in a rural county I had the advantage of the two most dominant politicians in my county adopting and mentoring me. They took me under their wing at a young age and taught me basic political maxims. One of the cardinal rules they taught me was never get involved with other people's races. The people are kind and generous enough to elect you to your job so be thankful and don't meddle in other people's campaigns. It shows an arrogance to assume that you can support another candidate in another race. It will come back to haunt you in the end because the candidate you failed to support, along with his family and friends, will be against you forever. There is another old political saying that is very true, "What goes around comes around."
The recent convictions of former Gov. Don Siegelman and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy may have been spectacular news. However their corruption scandal may be miniscule compared to the brouhaha brewing in the State junior college system.
The brazen nepotism that has been recently revealed is almost amazing in this day and time. The corruption unveiled would have been pretty bold for the 1940s and 50s prior to any ethics laws, but in 2006 it really looks bad. There is an old saying that where there is smoke there is fire.
The Chancellor Roy Johnson has been fired after it appears that he had put everybody in his family but his second cousin and dog on one of the junior college payrolls and Representative Bryant Melton, D-Tuscaloosa has already pled guilty to criminal charges and the federal investigation is just underway. This may just be the tip of the iceberg. This scandal may be major and one for the history books.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 70 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/> .