Adjudication of the Doug Gansler-Anthony Brown Clash

–Richard E. Vatz

     There is an ugly fight brewing — although perhaps the present perfect tense is more appropriate:  an ugly fight has proceeded – between gubernatorial aspirants Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler regarding their campaign rhetoric.

     Doug Gansler was recorded surreptitiously (a difficult issue for Democrats, since they seem to have honed that talent pretty well in the 2012 presidential race – in their current dispute, Ganslerites analogize it to President’s Nixon’s secret tapings, but let’s get up to date, friends) saying, “I mean, right now his campaign slogan is, ‘Vote for me, I want to be the first African American governor of Maryland.’ That’s a laudable goal, but you need a second sentence: ‘Because here’s what I’ve done, and here’s why I’ve done it.’

     The Brown camp and other Democratic bigwigs are appalled: according to The Washington Post, Justin Schall, Brown’s campaign manager, stated that Gansler is “out of touch with Maryland’s values,” and to ensure that there was no lack of overreaction, Brown supporter Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County) actually said, “White people don’t like the race card being pulled on them, and he pulled the race card on Anthony.”
     Not to be outdone in irresponsible rhetoric, Gansler aide Doug Thornell argued “It’s unfortunate that Anthony Brown’s campaign has to stoop to the level of Richard Nixon and send in spies to illegally record a private campaign organizing meeting.”

     Let a conservative who is a leaning David Craig supporter adjudicate:
     Doug Gansler is raising a legitimate issue when he argues that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown cites the importance of his race for Maryland’s electing the first African-American Governor but avoids other issues.  That said, it is unwise political rhetoric, as the Democratic constituency resents such mentions.

     It is quite justifiable to attack one’s primary opponent on his choice of issue agenda, but that does not mean it is politically effective, and in this case it is likely a campaign miscalculation by Mr. Gansler to bring up Mr. Brown’s race at all.

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     It is also quite within acceptable campaigning conventions to ask what issues are a candidate’s issues and what he or she has accomplished.  It seems that Mr. Gansler was not disparaging Mr. Brown racially whatsoever, so this corner sustains his refusal to apologize.

     Some Democrats are bringing up the fact that Mr. Gansler is Jewish, but unless he brought this up himself as a selling point, it is close to anti-Semitic to do so.

     Overall: Mr. Gansler has not crossed a line in reasonable campaigning, although he may have hurt himself in the contest since his Democratic brethren don’t like his criticizing Mr. Brown. 

     Let me state the obvious:  you cannot run a campaign without implying that you are a better candidate than your opponent and/or saying he has not made the case for his/her candidacy.

     Let’s stick to issues, gentlemen: engage the issues and how your Governorship will be better than Gov. O’Malley’s, Mr. Brown; cut the Computers for Crooks craziness, Mr. Gansler.
Professor Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University and is the author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2013)

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