MN-08: How not to respond to a political ad

Friends of Stewart Mills released a new campaign ad Wednesday featuring Aurora steelworker Steve Biondich telling voters “It’s not about Republicans or Democrats any more. It’s about jobs and our way of life. Look past the party, start looking at candidates” – a very effective message for the Iron Range. So effective in fact, that Democrats felt the need to immediately go on the offensive.

But instead of articulating an intelligent response to the ad itself – or challenging Mills – U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and his allies chose to go the cheap and easy route of attacking the Mesabi Range steelworker who appeared in the ad.

The Twin Cities-based CityPages posted “Star of Stewart Mills’s (sic) latest ad has off-color facebook page” early Thursday morning, after they say Biondich’s facebook page was called to their attention by a “tipster.”

Nolan staffers quickly jumped into the social media feeding frenzy that followed, focusing on screenshots that play into the stereotype of Range men, particularly those who work in the mines. Campaign manager Kendal Killian called Biondich “Sexist Steve” and a misogynist, and campaign communications director Sacha Haworth passed along similar tweets. The Breck School graduate also criticized the Range steelworker for thinking that “sexist jokes” are funny:

Haworth Mills ad

So, if a voter from the Iron Range who decides to appear in a campaign ad is now considered a “spokesman” and subject to a social media colonoscopy, shouldn’t an official campaign spokesperson from Deephaven undergo similar scrutiny?

Let’s just take a little look at some of Ms. Haworth’s social media postings.

Hmm…this tweet is pretty darn insulting to women:

haworth tweet demeans women oct 2010 (SFC)

Maine native Franni Franken might take issue with this one:

haworth maine weird people mar 29 2014

Does this indicate that Ms Haworth has reason to associate with a drug dealer?:

haworth knows how to get pcp

Is this really the level of commentary expected from the assistant communications director of a member of Congress?

haworth boo invasives boo sep 2013

And then there are the pictures…

sacha 3

sacna haworth

What conclusions could one draw about Ms. Haworth if applying the same standards used to judge Mr. Biondich?

The point is that context is important, everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet, everyone says things they shouldn’t (or should have expressed differently) and everyone has said or done something that others will find offensive.

Public officials and those running for office are fair game, but where does one draw the line for this kind of scrutiny?

If attacking and publicly humiliating a supporter becomes an accepted strategy to discredit a candidate, people will flee from the political process in droves. How many would choose to work on behalf of a candidate knowing that everything they have ever said or done in their personal lives will be fodder for opposition research?

Think of the chilling effect on our democracy.

Elections are supposed to be about ideas and articulating a message to voters, not trashing citizens who are actively engaged in the political process. Perhaps it is not the amount of money in politics that is truly corrupting our democracy, but rather what people think they need to do in order to get elected.