From inception, VoxFairfax has voiced concern about the tone, content, and conduct of political dialogue in the nation and, in particular, in the Commonwealth. Specifically, our concern was directed at the refusal or inability of political parties to exercise some self-control over messaging reflected in candidate conduct as well as campaign and related material.
The continued and repetitive appearance of words and material that rely upon ethnic, racial, and gender attacks reflect solely upon the speaker or originator.
The continued and repetitive appearance of words and material that rely upon ethnic, racial, and gender attacks reflect solely upon the speaker or originator. In May 2018, the VA GOP issued a press release labeling the Democratic candidate in the fifth Congressional district campaign a “virulent anti-Semite.” It mattered not that the statement was the organization’s opinion of the candidate’s writing in a book. This was the first of a number of examples of failures of both candidates and political parties to focus on issues and leave name-calling to the schoolyard.
It may be that local and state candidates and campaigns mimic the national parties in conduct but that’s an excuse like riding coattails not necessarily setting an example. Recently, however, the House GOP refused to assign Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to any committee assignments due to his persistent use of racially charged language. It should be noted that committee assignments were likewise withheld from Reps. Chris Collins (R-NY) and Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who were under investigation for criminal conduct.
Here in the Old Dominion, we have been exposed to Sen. Amanda Chase (R-SD11) , a modern day model for “pistol packing Momma,” whose escapades have received statewide notice. A self-proclaimed Tea Party super star, Chase most recently boasted that she was “not afraid to shoot down gun groups.” Her legislative record, in contrast, contains a number of affirmative measures, including the live broadcast of General Assembly committee hearings as well as a measure requiring hospitals to provide billing estimates.
The Senator was also involved in two dust-ups with the state’s Capitol Police in Richmond over the use of the police to provide her transportation and a parking space, including an allegation that one officer falsified a report concerning the incident. At the same time, though, Chase’s public statements chafe voters and the local GOP leadership. She recently accused her county’s popular sheriff, supported by the GOP, as favoring sanctuary cities. She endorsed the sheriff’s opponent which violated party rules forcing the county committee to terminate her membership. Chase is facing a well-organized and funded Democratic opponent and, together with the removal of her party’s backing, may see her chances for a second term disappear as the election is only 36 days away.
Over in Prince William County, John Gray is campaigning for Chair of the Board of Supervisors. The candidate, however, had posted a number of tweets over several years that opponents publicized, claiming them as sexist and racist. Gray attempted to scrub the Twitter account but was too late. Among his defenses, Gray has stated that the offensive tweets were issued prior to announcement of his candidacy and, in any event, apologized for them. Calls and demands for an end to his campaign have been rebuffed as the county GOP continues to support him albeit less than enthusiastically.
It remains to be seen whether that lesson trickles up to the national level to encourage some restraints on the tenor of the political and civil dialogue.
The election results on November 5, 2019, may reveal other insights into the voting public’s capacity for the excesses of candidates, as well as that of that of the political parties. It is encouraging that in both instances, the GOP has apparently learned that the behavior of its candidates and campaigns has an electoral impact. It remains to be seen whether that lesson trickles up to the national level to encourage some restraints on the tenor of the political and civil dialogue. Both major parties share responsibility in this regard, as well as a duty to the voting public. Ultimately, the stakes involve public trust and confidence in political leadership and governance. Accepting that all politics is local, it’s a place where candidates and parties should practice some self control.