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Election 2010

Do nice guys really finish last?

November 4, 2010
Maui Weekly

So although the votes are counted, and half the candidates and their voting majorities may nearly be done celebrating by the time you read this, I reiterate the question: Who won?

Was it the candidates who threw the punches or the opponents who they intended to knock out?

It’s probably common for candidates to attempt to blow out their opponent’s candle, so their own appears to shine more brightly. But this Hawai‘i election season has been like no other in history in terms of the millions of dollars poured into negative advertising.

U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) said, “It is one thing to make a candidate look ugly, but when they distort a picture completely, that is terrible.”

Sen. Inouye ran his own ad campaign calling for focus on the issues and a return to common courtesy. He suggested the candidates not stoop to mean-spirited pictures and name-calling. Sounds more like he was addressing a schoolroom of second-graders than Hawai‘i’s future leaders. (My sincere apologies to all second-graders for that comparison.)

But rather than concentrate on pertinent issues—and there are so many to choose from—some candidates instead attacked their opponents with all the class of a street brawl. Campaigns were based on blatant distortions, and actions and words taken out of context. Images and characters were darkened to make them look sinister, disreputable—even dangerous.

“It’s one thing to say that somebody didn’t act in a way that advanced the society or that you question their judgment about something,” said gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie. “It’s another thing to try to portray them as somebody who deliberately sets out to try to hurt somebody.”

Some attribute this aggressive behavior to Mainland influences. But if we bought into it, we have only ourselves to blame. This ain’t the Mainland.

So, we have our results. Do they prove that negative ads persuaded or repulsed voters when they went to the polls?

Were elections unfairly influenced by early voting, which gave candidates no time to respond and fight back? Who delivered a black eye, inflicted a fatal blow, or just bloodied their own knuckles in their efforts to win us over?

Did negative campaigning prove to be effective? And if so, what does that say about Hawai‘i’s voters?



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