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.
Those who get paid generously to dredge up the sleaze could care less that they may damage forever the most valuable possession of any individual _ their name and reputation. If they succeed at destroying an opponent, at whatever price, and their client wins, their cash registers ring today and will ring in the future.
It's not just individual candidates who are on the wrong end of sleaze campaigns that pay the price. It's the American people in general.
While the mud gets thrown, the real issues that need to be addressed are pushed to the sidelines. Is it any wonder that the country's many problems are ignored, accumulate and get worse?
Racism is one of the more popular allegations for the sleaze sleuths to dredge up. The Democratic operatives who found a few individuals, who for whatever reason want to damage George Allen, must have been thrilled with their find.
Again, whether or not the allegations are true, the operatives have done their job and have hurt Allen and can cash in for themselves. Does anyone think for a minute that these operatives care about blacks and improving their troubled lives?
Forget it. Today race is not an issue that is raised out of concern for the exploited. It is raised to exploit. The objective of the Webb campaign is to slander Allen and generate mistrust. There is no issue here about protecting black interests.
The fact is that Allen, with a conservative agenda to protect life and families, and to keep taxes low and limit the scope of government, would be far better for improving the lot of blacks in America today than his Democratic opponent.
But it would take some thought to appreciate this. The only thought the Webb campaign is interested in is how to smear Allen and brand him as a racist.
With the big-government formulas of the left irrelevant to dealing with black problems today _ of family breakdown and 50 percent high-school dropout rates in urban areas _ character assassination is the only thing left for Democrats to campaign on.
Voters should understand that today's real racists are those who choose to play political games while blacks languish as a growing underclass in America's cities.