The Times West Virginian

Opinion

May 18, 2014

COLUMN: Put focus on ‘why you should vote for me’

They spring up from the ground, in every color of the rainbow. You see them in bright clusters at intersections, along the roadways and in front yards.

They’re not spring flowers. They’re election signs.

And unlike spring flowers, which are fleeting, you better get used to them. They’re here to stay until November.

Don’t get me wrong. I love elections. Election day is like a holiday for me. I love to play out the different scenarios of what could happen in my head and chat with people about their predictions on various races.

However, the road to this November’s election is going to be a long one.

The people of West Virginia will go to the polls in November to decide on races like city council and U.S. Senate and every office in between. But it won’t be until they are nearly harassed by direct mailings, television commercials and direct phone calls. And it won’t be from the candidates themselves.

You see, in this midterm election, West Virginia has suddenly become important on the national political stage. Races in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd congressional districts could help swing the majority in the House from Republican to Democrat or help maintain the GOP majority. And then there’s the U.S. Senate race. No matter what, this will be an historic race. The first West Virginia woman ever will be elected to represent the Mountain State in the U.S. Senate. Let’s hope that it doesn’t make history for another reason that I suspect it may — the most money this state has ever seen pumped in from out-of-state political action committees and individuals interested in the final outcome.

Elections have changed from grassroots campaigns, door-to-door politicking and earning votes because the voters believe in your message.

Mudslinging is not new. It’s always been used on some level in heated races. But mudslinging is the new normal. Races are ugly. For West Virginia’s federal seats, both sides have a huge burden to overcome. Members of the GOP are going to be painted by their opponents as being part of the most do-nothing Congress and the stonewallers who forced a government shutdown to prove a point. Members of the Democratic party are going to have to overcome their automatic affiliation with the Obama administration based solely on being part of the same party and not where they stand on the president’s platform.

So voters will be barraged with these messages, from both parties. On social media. On television. On billboards. By email. It’s already started. It started within minutes after the results of last week’s primary election were called.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with campaigning, with getting your message out to the voters, with presenting your intentions if elected or re-elected to office. But it is a turnoff to voters when the message are constant and loud and angry and frightening.

We had a 19 percent statewide voter turnout for the primary election. It won’t go up by much more if for the next five months voters would rather curl up in a fetal position with the blinds drawn because they feel like a vote either way will be a mistake.

So let’s cross our fingers and toes and hope for a good dialogue between candidates and the voters, for campaigns to be more about “why you should vote for me” and less about “why you should not vote for them.”

Misty Poe is the managing editor of the Times West Virginian and can be reached by email at mpoe@timeswv.com, on Twitter @MistyPoeTWV or by phone at 304-367-2523.

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