Jewish World Review Nov. 13, 2001 / 27 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
The most dramatic and ignored example of this sad reality came in the race for Governor of New Jersey. Democrat Jim McGreevey won fairly easily over the openly conservative Bret Schundler, but he 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 shockingly racist.
The ad, which was broadcast in the closing days of the campaign on "urban" radio stations in and around the state, featured two African Americans speaking about the upcoming election. In the truly galling ad, the male voice reminds the female of what happened in the Florida Presidential race last year saying, "The Republicans stole OUR voice… they didn't count OUR votes" 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. Almost unbelievably, the sound of a police siren plays through most of the ad and is referred to as "the sound of an election being stolen" (and also acts a convenient reminder of the ongoing racial profiling controversy in the state).
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 had 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 got away with this heinous tactic without the vast majority of voters even knowing what he had 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 was especially true in this case due in no small part to the focus on the "war on terrorism" and the blatant liberal bias of the area's newspapers (all of which endorsed McGreevey and none of which even reported on this ad at all). 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 and on the front page of every newspaper?!
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 and political parties 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
11/09/01: TV networks show their true colors