The latest flare up over the supposed filching of Mark Kennedy's trade secrets — that his losing, directionless campaign is desperately trying to turn into some kind of Klobucharian plot — reminded me of a conversation several weeks ago.
Someone was fantacizing that the Independence Party could cut a deal with the Democrats. Mike Hatch drops out in favor of Peter Hutchinson, in exchange for the votes of the Independence Party.
The trouble with that, I said — and it was not the only trouble — is the Independence Party is not really a party. Meaning it couldn't deliver votes.
But I'd like to amend that statement. At least the Independence Party is acting like a party.
The Republicans can't decide whether they should publicly support their president. They send campaign officials to protest the other party's events. They attack opponents with egregiously false mailings, not to mention unpaid staffers and bloggers who aren't even working for the campaign. They barely post any policy-related information on their campaign sites, and then take them down for security reasons. They employ sub-literate functionaries to pummel the blogosphere with party press releases and misleading attacks. They act as if governing were the last thing they want to talk about.
The Democrats can't unite behind one of the most decent and exciting candidates they've had in awhile because they're afraid of the Republican slime machine. They've endured embarrassing withdrawals of candidates, and they can't decide whether their endorsement process should be followed. While the right-wing media form an echo chamber, the Dems can achieve at best a rapidly decaying digital delay. The gubernatorial nominee, like his Republican counterpart, is focusing on his own race, dodging debates and leaving party leadership to a press release jockey who is only marginally less annoying than the other side's.
In contrast, the Independence Party presents a united slate of candidates who act like professionals instead of professional politicians. They stay out of the smears and sniping. They try to focus on issues and offer real policy proposals. They present themselves as a management team and support each other. Too bad their party gained notoriety as a celebrity vanity project and never built a real grassroots. Otherwise, they might be kicking some serious ass right now. Instead, they have to resort to duck suits just to get the media to cover them.
But at least they're behaving like a party of grown-ups.
If the Kennedy-Kunin Affair shows anything, it's that 24-year-olds understand the Web and most candidates, their advisors, their ad agencies, political reporters and pundits are clueless. But it also shows there's a reason why newspapers are cautious and real journalists identify themselves, ask questions of both sides and have editors look at their work.
Noah Kunin is a bright, idealistic partisan who made one big mistake trying to be an investigative blogger. (Or two, if it turns out his statement wasn't quite the whole story.) But the guy on the other side leading the attack against the amateur Websleuth commits more real damage in a week than Noah will in a lifetime. Behind a veil of compartmentalized "ethics" — I'm a party operative, no, I'm a paid consultant, no, this is all me — Michael Brodkorb chums the political waters by the hour.
And as a result, politics stinks worse and worse.
I want to hear more from the people who would be governing, about how they would govern. I want to hear from the grownups.