Hi. See the person in the picture? His name is Steve Schuh. Mr. Schuh is one of three Delegates, in the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 31. He’s currently completing his second four-year term. More to the point of this series of articles, he’s running to become the County Executive of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. (I live in Maryland too, but in another county.)
Pleasant looking gentleman, isn’t he? I think so. I don’t know him personally. We’ve never met. By all accounts, he’s very bright, well-educated, hard working, financially successful and, presumably, kind to children and small animals. As far as I can tell, he more than meets the minimal IQ and ethical standards that qualify him, more or less, to run for office.
Beyond that, Mr. Schuh’s personal attributes and life are none of my business or anyone else’s for that matter. Unless something about his personal life has real, tangible bearing on his ability to govern, I won’t be talking about it. That would be making it personal. The Next Contestant is about politics.
“Are you going after Mr. Schuh?”
Well, technically, yes, but saying it that way makes it sound creepy. I have absolutely nothing against Mr. Schuh personally. My criticisms of his candidacy are “just business” where the business I’m talking about is politics and government.
Next Contestant isn’t about “negative” campaigning. It’s about me offering criticism of a given candidate – Steve Schuh in this case – who I think shouldn’t be elected to office. In the next 30 days, up until Election Day on Tuesday, the fourth of November, I’m going point out problems with Steve Schuh that I think voters in Anne Arundel County need to know.
“Why are you doing this? It seems mean and you don’t even live in Anne Arundel County. Is it really any of your business who they elect?”
It “seems mean”? I’m not picking on Mr. Schuh. He’s running for office and, as such, is holding himself – his voting record in the House, his statements – up for public scrutiny and debate in which this blog and I are participating.
Besides, if I don’t criticize him, who will?
1. Mr. Schuh isn’t going to give you reasons why you shouldn’t vote for him.
2. His opponent is Democrat George Johnson. That’s him in the picture, standing in front of the Bay Bridge. Mr. Johnson was elected Sheriff of Anne Arundel County three times and is currently Superintendent of the Maryland State Natural Resources Police.
Mr. Johnson has decided to run an exclusively positive campaign and so he won’t be telling you why you shouldn’t vote for Mr. Schuh.
3. And, with the exception of an occasional editorial, the press is not opinionated. They’ll report what this and that candidate says and does, but it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions.
4. I believe that most voters are too busy and/or don’t care enough to take the time to figure all this out for themselves.
So that leaves the Next Contestant. Think of it as a public service.
“Tell me again why this isn’t ‘negative’ campaigning?”
Sure. There are actually 3 kinds of campaigning:
– There’s positive campaigning which is when the candidate only talks about himself – leaving it up to voters to figure out what’s wrong with the other guy.
This approach makes the positive candidate seem like he (or she) isn’t fighting to win and leaves him defenseless if and when his opponent comes after him – in which case the positive-only candidate is defenseless and generally loses. …Bummer.
A positive-only campaign strategy can also make it difficult for a well-meaning candidate to raise money.
– There’s negative campaigning. That’s when an overly serious, occasionally creepy voice shows you disturbing screen images that portray his/her opponent in a sinister way, sometimes accurately, sometimes not.
These television ads – and mailers – usually include unflattering pictures of the opponent. …You take enough pictures of a candidate and some of them, I don’t care how photogenic he or she may be, are going to be bad shots that would have been deleted from the family album. I don’t do that. Notice the picture of Steve Schuh? It’s the one from his website and there’s nothing whatsoever disturbing about it.
– But then there’s a third category. “Critical campaigning,” I like to call it.
At the Next Contestant, there’s no loud or creepy voice telling you anything. No vulgarity. No pictures of the candidate picking his or her nose or video of him making strange, inappropriate noises or with pained expressions accompanied by disturbing images of guns and other bad things. And there’s no lying, no spin or exaggeration to the point of conveying an impression that isn’t accurate.
No. Everything on the Next Contestant will be accurate, to the best of my ability to research it, and documented by specific references to to candidate voting history, statements and hard, relevant data. That way, you can confirm for yourself the correctness of what I’ve said. The Next Contestant is, in other words, academic criticism of the candidate who is the subject, not the “target” because that word has inappropriate connotations, but the “subject” of what I write.
This difference between negative and critical campaigning is, admittedly, a lot about style but, if that was all there was too it, I wouldn’t even bother to make the distinction. The problem is that it’s also about the substantive content of the statements that are being made – and about the way negative images and words can be used to communicate impressions that should be irrelevant and/or are misleading and sometimes outright lies.
“I just have one last question.”
“Why Steve Schuh?”
Uh, well, no particular reason. I just looked around at some of the races in the area, thought that the race in Anne Arundel County – where I grew up, by the way – was interesting, politically speaking. And that was all there was to it. I certainly having nothing against Steve Schuh personally. I just don’t think he is, politically, a good idea for Anne Arundel County government.
Also, there is a huge financial difference between the campaigns in Mr. Schuh’s favor. He’s personally wealthy, has put a great of his own money into his campaign and has well-to-do supporters who are contributing money to help him win. While I’m certainly not begrudging Mr. Schuh his financial success… Are you kidding? I want to be like him when I grow up, financially speaking. …what I am doing is making my own meager attempt to level the playing field. I really don’t like the role of money in politics, a point I’ve made clear in many things I’ve written over the past few years.
This being a free country, I picked Steve Schuh talk about it. …If I had more time or more staff, we’d be talking about lots of other candidates. Maybe next election. Who knows?
Next post after this introduction: My first comment about Steve Schuh, the candidate.