Politics, like nature, hates a vacuum. If candidates have nothing to say, or if voters aren't interested in what they are saying, we can be sure dirt will fill the vacuum.
So it should come as no surprise that in Virginia, where James Webb, the Democratic candidate challenging incumbent Sen. George Allen, is making disappointing progress, sludge is starting to ooze from Webb's campaign.
Suddenly, after 25 years in state politics, including a term as governor prior to being elected to the Senate, allegations emerge that the Republican uttered, years ago, the racist n-word when he was a college football player. According to another allegation, back in those same days the future governor and senator stuffed a severed deer's head into the mailbox of a black household.
The real issue on the table now is whether voters should be more concerned that Allen might have been racially insensitive in his youth, or whether, now, at a time when the country has real problems to address, an intellectually bankrupt Democratic Party chooses to spend its time excavating dirt rather than generating ideas.
Polls show that Americans are not happy with the direction of the nation today. This is not a partisan question, but a general discomfort with what passes for leadership. Too often our choice remains between those with whom we disagree and those whom we don't trust.
I think it's symptomatic of the fact that politics, which once defined the realm of public service, is today simply business. A huge commercial infrastructure exists of those who earn very handsome livings at advising candidates how to raise money, how to campaign and how to win. These operatives are not compensated for ideas about how to make the country better. They are compensated on whether their clients win.
With millions of dollars to raise, and a complex world of media to deal with, weak candidates, driven by lust for office that is stronger than any clear agenda, turn their campaigns over to these operatives.
Dredging up aspersions to question an opponent's character is now a common part of this sleazy business. It doesn't matter whether there is truth to allegations or not. Once an aspersion is made, even if it is never substantiated, the public perception of a man or woman is forever impacted. Even when incontrovertible evidence is brought to bear that the allegations are pure garbage, the shadow of the allegations remains.
Consider the price Clarence Thomas paid for the sickening campaign of sleaze that was run against him.
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