Editorial | Brown-Warren race for Senate degenerates into ad war
Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 08:10
As the Massachusetts Senate race continues and the debate season reaches its height, Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren have taken new steps in their attempts to win what has become one of the most watched and most heavily funded races in the nation. In the process, their campaigns are muting substantive conversation.
In the past two weeks especially, both campaigns have apparently dropped earlier agreements to limit the type of negative ad campaigns that pervade American national politics. Both Brown and Warren have broken this pact, though neither is overtly personally responsible for the breach. In the past two weeks, Brown’s campaign began its assault on Warren’s claim to Native American heritage, asserting she used it — falsely — to get into Harvard Law School. Warren’s campaign responded with a barrage of ads on Brown’s ties to big finance. In the past week, the Brown campaign released a radio ad decrying Warren, claiming she did wrong by asbestos victims while representing an insurance company in a lawsuit. The Warren campaign responded with ads offering clarification as well as telling voters, “Scott Brown should be ashamed.”
The focus in the Massachusetts Senate race has taken an unhealthy, if expected, turn from issues to innuendo and from substance to mudslinging. This change is not unexpected, and it seems in many ways inevitable: The outside funding in the race from sources such as Karl Rove’s American Crossroads group to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee has been markedly higher than in previous Senate races and ranks relatively high among other current races.
Even so, this shift is not a laudable one. Instead of discussing ways of curbing student loan debt, both sides have lost focus on the issues. In a race that both sides expressed hope for, this problem appears in harsher relief. This exciting instance of a moderate Republican going up against a hardcore liberal in Massachusetts has devolved from discussion-centric problem solving — its admirable initial aim — to a mudslinging competition which bears little pertinence to policy.
The time for real debate quickly dwindles as the actual debates and the days till the election decrease. The heavily funded air war that both candidates have broken an agreement to enter has denied not only Massachusetts but also the country an opportunity to witness serious debate. This trend, though not new, debilitates voters’ ability to make smart decisions based on the issues. As the ad war continues to descend into levels of airy rhetoric and character assault, expect little in the way of coherent policy or specific plans on your TV screen and radio.