Bradley vs. Gore: Debate’s the Way
As one of the few at MIT who knows and cares about the New Hampshire results (as Eric Plosky put it on Feb. 4 in “A Primary Primer”), I would like to contribute my two cents to this issue.
In the Granite State, our version of democracy is viewed through a microscope. The press chews, digests, and spits back every action, speech, and proposal made by the Oval Office hopefuls. Every statement is magnified: even John McCain’s minor allusion to ‘homosexual-dar’ caused a significant splash in the media.
That is why I am particularly concerned about the recent campaign tactics used by the Bill Bradley campaign. Last year, Bradley kicked off his run for the White House by attempting to reinvent politics so that it would be viewed as “a noble profession” and not “a dirty word.” He set out grand ideals, such as universal health care, ending child poverty, and healing racial divides. By New Year’s Day, Bradley -- leading in New Hampshire polls -- had shattered the inevitability of Al Gore’s nomination.
In the middle of January, the Bradley campaign decided to go negative. They were fed up with Gore’s persistent attacks on Bradley’s health care proposal and education plan. But instead of taking the high road and countering Gore’s jabs with a genuine the debate on the issues, Bradley debased politics and brought the race to the personal level. Bradley attacked Gore’s character, portrayed him as a liar, accused Gore of jumping “into bed with the special interests,” and deployed a group of political operatives (the self-proclaimed “truth squad”) to follow Gore around at his events.
Besides being nasty politics, this type of campaign is bad strategy. Most states in the next round of primaries (e.g. New York, California) do not let independents vote. Among Democrats, Bradley lost New Hampshire by 16 percentage points. Insulting the character of a man who served his country honorably in the military, and fought for Democratic values for 23 years, is no way to get those votes back.
Bill Bradley is not an evil or bad person; he has just made a poor decision. I implore Senator Bradley to attack the Vice President on substantive issues, thus beginning a dialogue on health care, education, and Social Security that will enlighten the people of America and restore honor to our political system.
Aaron Strauss ’02