Every politician chooses to unite or divide. Dividers emphasize our differences and play to a political base, often by demonizing the other party. Uniters find areas of agreement and build relationships across political boundaries. As we enter into the heart of the election season, campaign messaging shows what each candidate chose.
The non-stop attack ads on broadcast TV are discouraging. I’ve been on the receiving end of many in the past, but I try not to respond. In my experience – 18,000 doors knocked and counting – voters want a positive approach. Character assassination doesn’t impress them. I’ve tried to speak as little about my opponents as possible, preferring to highlight my own qualifications and vision. I’m always happy to see positive ads out there, whether they’re from my party’s politicians or others. Positive ads give me hope that we may make progress, in a time when democracy itself is under attack.
Effective leadership communicates a positive vision of the future that inspires working together to achieve it. In 28 years of military service, I’ve had the privilege of serving under many terrific leaders and only a few bad ones. None were perfect, but even the bad ones had redeeming qualities. General Petraeus, who was my boss in Afghanistan, inspired and supported all of us who worked under his command, though his pride eventually brought him down. Senator Lindsey Graham offers me little inspiration, but Colonel Lindsey Graham made sure that our team in Afghanistan received the recognition and promotions they deserved for their extraordinary efforts.
Just as tigers do not change their stripes, politicians do not miraculously develop leadership qualities after the election. Candidates who run negative campaigns do not suddenly become beacons of inspiration and bipartisanship. As I thought about how to evaluate campaign ads, I realized that a good model already exists in the Rotary Four Way Test:
Of the things we think, say or do:
o Is it the TRUTH?
o Is it FAIR to all concerned?
o Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
o Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
While it is probably too much to ask that campaign ads be “beneficial to all concerned” in the context of elections in which only one candidate can win, perhaps we can agree that ads should at least be beneficial to a public that depends on a functional political process. It’s beneficial to draw comparisons that educate the voters, but not to mischaracterize opponents’ positions or history, nor to assassinate their character.
Too many campaigns never put forth their positive vision of the future. I recall one ad from the last cycle where the candidate’s whole message was that he would spend his term tearing down the other party. His (unsuccessful) bet was that people wanted to hurt the other party more than they wanted to see us all succeed.
As you evaluate candidates and decide how to vote, I hope you’ll ask yourself first whether the candidate has any positive vision of the future, and, if so, whether it’s one that inspires you. I work with many people whose visions of the future I disagree with in various respects, but we’re often able to find common ground because we’re focused on the common good. Whatever your personal positive vision of the future, I hope you choose to support candidates who campaign positively.
The new updated bivalent COVID-19 boosters can be administered in Oregon now that the final step in the review and approval process has occurred. The updated boosters are a single dose that can be administered at least two months after completion of an initial two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two months after a monovalent booster of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
Vaccinations (including boosters) are available at:
Primary care provider
For individuals who are experiencing symptoms and/or had a recent close encounter with a known positive case may access testing through Lane County Public Health, Linn County Public Health, through your primary care provider, or by using the online lookup tool to find another location near you .
As a citizen witness and local craftsman in the visual arts field I have attempted to explain the catastrophic risks of any public policy promoting division. I used the medium that suits me best to express my concerns as you do yourself with eloquent words. You might find the visual philosophy exhibited in 20Twenty Cage Blues ( at Eugene’s Public Library until Nov.4th.) in unisson with your warning about divisive campaigning.
Positive vs. negative campaigning:
As a recovering politician your philosophical musings are welcome and point out that any candidate that dwells exclusively on smearing and demonizing the opponent are a red flag. That strategy (of using negative adds) reveals a lack of commitment to true leadership, leadership that would focus on the general welfare of the community at large. It also reveals a hateful and destructive tendency that can quickly devolve into authoritarianism and the worse kind of bad government. I sometimes wonder if building consensus is not a forgotten art in todays political forum, a gladiator’s win-all take-all kind of battle to the death. We either evolve from that dead end attitude or lose the most precious contract of democracy.