One thing that I have noticed about this Presidential campaign is the amount of commentary on the “mud-slinging” and “dirty” tactics being employed by the media and the candidates. It seems some people think that this 2011 Presidential campaign is somehow exceptional in this regard, that it is a low point in such matters.
I reject this assertion. This campaign is no more dirty then any election in memory.
Take the last Presidential election in 1997. You know, the one with Mary “tribal time-bomb” McAleese being attacked for her religion and birthplace? The one where Adi Roche was savaged? Where Dana, well, had a similar time to this one?
Or the one before that, 1990. The one where Mary Robinson was dubbed a bad mother who exploited her family for political gain, where Austin Currie was dismissed almost from the outset?
No, things don’t change that much.
But there are some factors that might make people think otherwise. One is the sheer number of candidates. With seven names, there is more digging and slinging to be had.
Another is just the increase in media, especially social media, which amplifies anything newspapers or candidates say or do.
Also, attacks in Presidential elections are directed at people, as opposed to faceless parties in a general election. This makes “dirty” tactics a little bit more noticeable.
Anyway, many people complain about this sort of thing, that it goes too far, is unfair, but I don’t see it. The media is allowed to report on what it wants and to question the candidates, especially on their past. Some of these candidates have absolute whoppers in that regard. They always do (in Dana’s case, it’s almost entirely of her own doing).
The media is not manufacturing Norris’ letters, McGuinness’ time in the IRA, Gallagher’s Fianna Fail links. These things are real, and the candidates should be expected to be asked about them, for them to be front page news. This is the game, like it or not. Whining about it, as Norris has become so prone to doing, as McGuinness memorably did the other night to Miriam O’ Callaghan, won’t make it stop.
Next election , it will be the same story, and you will be sure to see someone saying/writing that they’ve “never seen such a dirty campaign”. And I’ll shake my head and smile.
Briefly, on the candidates:
Higgins continues to do little, which is still the perfect strategy. Let the rest squabble, and let his untarnished past do the work.
Gallagher is slipping, losing the momentum he previously gained. The FF links, which is unwilling to clarify properly, are going to kill him.
Norris is rapidly becoming an afterthought, to the extent that even the media are beginning to ignore him in favour of other candidates. He’s become so whiny and defensive.
Davis is also slipping back from a previously good position, her status as the notable independent well and truly gone to Gallagher now. She never shuts up about the Special Olympic, and seems to have little depth.
McGuinness is someone who I now think the vast majority of voters have made their minds up about, pro and anti. His calm image is certainly slipping a bit. I’m not sure why he’s so outraged about the direction his questions have gone, he must have expected this.
Mitchell now has the air of someone who knows he hasn’t a prayer and just doesn’t care so much about appearances. To that extent, he seems more honest and less deflective then the other candidates, even if that means he’s going to put more voters off with stuff like rejoining the Commonwealth.
Dana, ever the joke, has only become more so.
More to come.