Editorial by John Ziegler

McGreevey Made Us Pay High Price For His Victory

11/7/2001

Jim McGreevey has won this year's race for Governor in New Jersey, but he has disgraced himself in the process. Unbeknownst to the vast majority of voters, the Democratic party of New Jersey, on behalf of, and certainly in coordination with, the McGreevey campaign, ran a radio advertisement that was simply racist.

The ad, which was broadcast in the closing days of the campaign on "urban" radio stations such as "classic soul" WDAS-FM here in Philadelphia, features two African Americans speaking about the upcoming election. The male voice reminds the female of what happened in the Florida Presidential race last year saying, "The Republicans stole OUR voice" and urges her to help stop that from happening again. He then urges those listening to "not let the Republicans steal another election" and to vote Democratic on Tuesday. Most of the ad had the sound of a police siren blaring in the background to symbolize the alledged election theft.

The message in the ad is as subtle as one of Al Sharpton's fluorescent colored sport coats. Clearly the Democratic Party of New Jersey was claiming that blacks had been illegally and deliberately disenfranchised last year in Florida and that Republicans needed to be punished for that this year in New Jersey. McGreevey's team was asking African-Americans to vote against his opponent (who happens to have been reelected Mayor of a city where "minorities" are in the majority and where he has been praised for "wooing" black voters) simply because of the color of their skin. This call to action (revenge?) was apparently based on the wild accusations of racism in Florida for which there has never been one shred of direct evidence ever produced to substantiate such inflammatory charges.

Under any circumstances, an ad based on distortions and lies would be unacceptable and worthy of immediate repudiation, but, in this case, several factors make the egregiousness of the act exponentially more repugnant. Here we have a candidate blatantly and deliberately enflaming racial hatred to further his own political career.

At any point in our nation's history such abject selfishness would be wrong, but to exhibit such needlessly divisive behavior in the wake of September 11th when, for the first time in recent memory, the racial divide has been at least temporarily narrowed, goes way beyond even Bill Clinton's nefarious use of the race card for political gain. To use such tactics to attempt to drive a wedge between the races at this time when our unity is of such national importance is almost treasonous. To do so in such a sneaky and underhanded fashion in an election where he was virtually certain to win anyway is both cowardly and stupid.

The most frustrating part of this sad scenario is that, like Bill Clinton before him, Jim McGreevey is going to get away with this heinous tactic without the vast majority of voters even knowing what he has done. Because of the fragmented media age in which we now live where all of us have been broken down and splintered into small demographic groups who rarely consume the same sources of information, candidates like McGreevey can reach a target audience "under the radar screen." This allows them to say things that provoke passion and turnout in one group (like young African Americans) without fearing that the same message would completely offend another faction (for instance, moderate whites).

Occasionally the "mainstream media" will report the contents of a particularly controversial ad, but that is an extremely "hit or miss" proposition (this time was clearly a "miss"). This is especially true when the scheme is used very late in a campaign and when the complex and intimidating race issue is involved. The news media's notorious "liberal bias" also seems to be a culprit in this particular situation. Does anyone doubt that if the Schundler camp had run an ad on "easy listening" stations asking whites to vote for him as punishment against the anti-white Democrats that it would have been the top story on every local newscast?!

Obviously, in a society founded on the concept of free speech a candidate should be legally allowed to say almost anything he/she wants. However, when publicly regulated money is used to broadcast a message over the publicly owned airwaves, there must be a better system of accountability. At the very least, campaigns should be required by the FEC to post the content of all of their advertisements on their website. That way, there might be some built-in disincentive for politicians to attempt to divide us for nothing more than a few, usually meaningless, votes. At the very least, those of as who care about such things would have the ability to find out what is really going on. After all, what really bothers me about what McGreevey did is not that it helped him win, but rather that almost no one even knew he that he did it.

source: <a href="http://inq.philly.com/content/inquirer/2001/11/15/opinion/south_jersey/JCOL15.htm">The Way That this Column Appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer</a>

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