One of the annoying things about politics these days — and there are many — is how candidates constantly try to connect their opponents to everything bad in the world.
Hardly a day goes by in election season without one political party linking candidates from the other party to unpopular and polarizing figures within their party.
In North Carolina, Democrats have fallen all over themselves trying to connect Gov. Pat McCrory and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr — both of whom are locked in tight election battles — to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and some of his controversial statements and actions.
In a recent news release, titled “Standing Pat with Trump,” the N.C. Democratic Party pointed out that McCrory has campaigned with Trump and “has refused to disagree with even a single controversial Trump statement, firmly tying their campaigns together.”
The Republican Party is doing precisely the same, trying to link Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Deborah Ross and gubernatorial candidate Roy Cooper with Hillary Clinton. The NCGOP sent a news release questioning whether Cooper and Ross would call on Bill and Hillary Clinton to step away from the Clinton Foundation in light of recent and disturbing developments about that.
“Do North Carolina’s top Democrats, Roy Cooper and Deborah Ross, still think that Hillary Clinton is trustworthy?” NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes asked in an email.
Should it matter?
Ross and Cooper and McCrory and Burr are individuals with original thoughts and ideas on how to make our state and country better, or at least we should hope that’s the case. If they’re not, then why are they top candidates for some of the top offices in North Carolina and the United States?
I’m pretty sure McCrory probably cringes privately at some of what Trump has said and done the past few months. Likewise, I’m pretty sure Cooper wishes privately that Clinton didn’t have so many issues with trust among voters. If not, then we have real reasons for concern.
But the candidates are highly unlikely to admit that publicly in an election year with so much at stake.
So why don’t the political parties focus more on the strengths of their candidates rather than the weaknesses of members of their opponents’ political parties?
I assume, unfortunately, that it works. It riles up political bases and draws voters to the polls.
It helps raise campaign cash. And it helps spread the narrative that the political parties want voters to believe, whether true or not.
It’s guilt by association, and both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of deploying that tactic for their own political gains.
I wish it would stop, but it won’t.
I wish political consultants and operatives would focus on what makes their candidate the right choice for voters, rather than using association fallacies, which assert by often-irrelevant linkage that qualities of one person are also qualities of another.
Such fallacies often prey on people's emotions, and of course, appealing to people's emotions is a good way to steer them toward your camp politically.
Regardless of whether the entire premise of that appeal is based in fact or fiction.
Patrick Gannon is the columnist for the Capitol Press Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.