Well, it looks like it is almost official according to my distinguished colleagues here at OC Political who have been watching intently and reporting on the vote count. John Moorlach will most certainly avoid a run-off and stands to take the oath this Sunday as the newly elected California State Senator from the 37th District. Moorlach ran a positive campaign, according himself with honor and gravitas against withering attacks from Don Wagner (and yes, he did get a little negative towards the end because he was provoked). Wagner was negative out of the gate, and only became more negative as the campaign progressed. His tactics were, in retrospect, clearly unsuccessful as he lost by a 6 point margin. I think both he and his campaign advisers should reflect on their behavior, and hope they will see the Moorlach win was as much about positive feelings for Moorlach’s forthright style and outstanding accomplishments as it was about Wagner displaying petulant behavior unbecoming of someone who claims to carry the conservative banner.
In comments on my last blog, I was taken to task for being naive and not understanding how campaigning is a down and dirty, nasty business. A blood sport, certainly. I have been involved in politics as a conservative activist for over ten years now, working in numerous political action committees to financially support and promote candidates, so I’m hardly naive. I know exactly how campaigns go, and I have no problem with a candidate “digging up dirt” on an opponent, exposing all of their failings and foibles without getting personal (unless their personal behavior demonstrates a serious character flaw). We’re all human and fallible, so you can find something negative about any human being. But there is a definite line that is crossed when candidates make charges that are outright false because they know people won’t bother to check the facts, or so twist the facts it’s hard to determine what is true and what isn’t. Wagner did this on a number of occasions, but it was ineffective because many of those who vote in the 37th District are politically active, discerning, and have seen Moorlach’s sterling record for themselves over the past twenty years. So they were not going to be fooled. Whereas before the election, you would find few who didn’t have a favorable disposition towards Wagner, afterwards there was an increasing number who saw a side of Wagner they never expected, and were naturally disappointed. Had Wagner simply elected to run on his great record, providing truthful, reasonable criticisms of Moorlach, he could have possibly prevailed.
Now the problem with Wagner’s approach to this campaign, and some of the other “dirty” campaigns I have seen over the years, is that some feel when it comes to campaigning, the conservative principles and values they say they espouse no longer apply. You do whatever it takes to win, and then when you’re done we’re all friends again. It reminds me of the Ethan Hawke movie The Purge. In this future, dystopian, totalitarian world, one night a year is designated “The Purge” where all crime is legal from 7 p.m. at night to 7 a.m. the next morning. Ostensibly, the purge results in a strong economy with low crime and unemployment due to its cathartic effect, but in reality it’s just a mechanism for artificial population control. The family of the character played by Hawke is under murderous attack by their next door neighbors, who are unsuccessful at killing his family but attempt to revert back to the way things were when the clock strikes 7 a.m. Clearly, we’re not that far along as a society, but I think you get the point. Things don’t necessarily go back to the way they were because for a time the rules of decorum, honesty, and civility are temporarily lifted.
What I am arguing is simply that if you are a conservative who says you sincerely believe in God, love, mercy, brotherhood, and objective truth, except these have no place when it comes to campaigning, then more than likely much of the real person is who we see in the campaign. When the pressure is on and there is something significant to be lost or gained, that’s when we see who you truly are, not when you’re out giving a speech, participating in a community event, or raising money. What we want be assured of is that the things of which you do and speak come from your very soul, and that we see them consistently displayed, especially in the heat of political battle. It is not my expectation that this little post will have a significant impact on campaigns moving forward, but I do hope it will cause candidates to give a little pause before they compromise their core principles or allow others to influence them to do so. And thus, I will close with a quote by the Dalai Lama XIV: “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”