Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Lugar's Defeat and Negative Campaigning

Yes, Dick Lugar was old. Yes, he'd lost touch with Indiana. Yes, he's anything but a small-government Tea Party type. But let's not forget one other factor contributing to his resounding defeat in the Republican senatorial primary: the way he and his allies conducted the campaign.

I moved to Indiana in 1989, and for all the years since, until a couple of months ago, Lugar had a rare reputation as a statesman and a gentleman. Some of his positions and decisions could legitimately be described as insufficiently conservative for the current political climate, but he could have found ways to remind voters of his accomplishments. Instead, almost all we saw, ad nauseum, were heavy-footed, disingenuous attack ads. You know the kind -- where the same old voice actors use the same melodramatic phrasing. To put it mildly, it does not encourage me to vote for a candidate when that candidate assumes I mindlessly respond to ominous tones and nasty adjectives. And the ads kept coming, even after their distortions were exposed.

We're all used to this approach by now, and it may not be feasible to penalize every candidate who indulges in it, short of plugging our ears and refusing to vote. But when a candidate who should know better and is assumed to know better stoops to this kind of campaign, we can hold him accountable. And we did. I've been reading the recaps, and it's clear I'm not the only one who found the tactics of Lugar et al. offensive as well as surprising.

I have my concerns about Indiana losing the benefits of Lugar's connections and seniority. My husband works at Crane, and I think it likely that Lugar has been protecting Crane effectively and would continue to do so. (FWIW, I firmly believe it's worth protecting. Crane does a great deal of valuable and high-quality work, the giggle potential of a naval base in Indiana notwithstanding.) I don't know whether Mourdock -- or, for that matter, Donnelly -- can provide comparable protection. But not only am I a small-government Independent with tea party sympathies, but I could not bring myself to reward Lugar for diving into the slime pit.

Retire in peace, Senator. I'm sorry you left this way.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Common Sense 101: Tailgating

Look, I get it. I do. Impatient is my middle name -- or would be, if my parents had had the chance to get to know me ahead of time. When the driver ahead of you is moving too slow, it's natural to want to noodge them into speeding up by pressing on their automotive space bubble. BUT . . . you really know better. You do. Don't you?

Well, just in case you don't:

(a) Tailgating Is Dangerous. Your vehicle looming in my rear view mirror distracts me. When you distract me, I'm less likely to react in time when something changes up ahead. And maybe I crash into the deer or bicyclist or car or toddler, and then you crash into me.

Not good enough? Well, try this one:

(b) Tailgating Is Counterproductive (at least, when you tailgate a careful driver). When I see you driving up close to my rear, I don't speed up. I slow down. And I'm not doing it to frustrate you -- at least, not primarily. The less room I have behind me, the more room I'll need in front of me. If I see an obstacle up ahead, and I slam on the brakes with you right behind me, you'll slam into me. The slower I'm moving, the more time I have to brake gradually before I reach the obstacle.

And if I slow down, you'll have to slow down. (Or pass me. PLEASE. But you could've done that without tailgating me first.)

So take a deep breath, and BACK OFF.