Conversations with my Millennial sister: Oppositional research

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Alexandria, VA – September 28, 2015

This text conversation is funny, but it also highlights a trend I have found to be troubling.

In these current times of relentless campaigning, photos opportunities, and “gotcha” moments, opposition research, or “oppo,” is everything. Oppo is done on every level from local campaigns to national. Of course, the resources at a candidate’s disposal are much greater in statewide, congressional and national campaigns, so you can expect oppo to be more far-reaching, and more detailed, if more is at stake.

Much has been written about why it is that so few women run for political office. One theory is that less women than men run for office because women are generally unwilling to subject themselves and their families to the unrelenting, take-no-prisoners approach that campaigns have become, and oppo has a lot to do with that.

And mind you, I’m not talking about oppositional research to discover where candidates really stand on issues, or to find out what they said about, e.g., the Second Amendment or socialized medicine. I’m talking about oppo on a candidate’s entire personal life, e.g., what their marriage is/was like, what their children do, etc.

When I was in my early twenties, I thought in more purist, black and white terms, so to speak. Now, there are things that possibly would have been dealbreakers for me in a candidate when I was twenty years old, but would not necessarily be so now.

Obviously, there are certain things about a candidate that, if you knew, would be (and should be) total dealbreakers. However, there are other things that, depending on the circumstances, may or may not be dealbreakers.

Everyone has baggage; it’s only a matter of how much, and of what type. How do you deal with the baggage? How do you deal with your mistake? Is the baggage revealed about a candidate going to affect how he/she would govern?

Everyone has made some mistakes, or faux pas. We are human! It is unrealistic to expect a candidate never to have uttered a foul word against someone, or never to have gotten angry about something, or never to have said anything even remotely embarrassing. Oppo will continue to be a central part of all campaigns, until maybe some candidate has the guts to, when confronted with the embarrassing info, stand up and say, So what? Yes, I made a mistake, but I fessed up to it, accepted the consequences, and dealt with it. We’re all human; none of us are perfect. Let’s move on. But most candidates are too worried about appearances, optics, and possible missteps. I would love to one day see a candidate who says, Hey, if you’re not going to vote for me because I did whatever, then I guess you won’t vote for me. Now let’s talk about economics/liberty/privacy/defense/ budget/insert issue here.

That’s it.



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