Put a stop to ‘video tracking’

Published 10:21 am Thursday, August 19, 2010

Editorial, Austin Daily Herald

The DFL’s gubernatorial candidate, Mark Dayton, is angry because he believes Republican “video trackers” are following him too closely. It’s just the latest in a seemingly endless, and increasingly tiresome, demonstration of why Minnesotans are going to have a tough job this fall picking a candidate they can support.

Those who don’t keep a close eye on the techniques of political campaigns probably didn’t know that it has become a common technique for parties to send out operatives who shadow the moves of opposing candidates, constantly pointing video cameras in the hopes of taping a mis-statement or mistake. Those slip-ups then can be used to generate attack ads.

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Attack ads, which typically are authored and paid for by interest groups, rather than candidates, are the bane of American — and Minnesotan — politics. They lower the level of discussion, they frustrate and annoy voters and they ought to be deeply embarrassing to the candidates who are supposedly the beneficiaries. As we have noted previously (editorial on Aug. 18), candidates may not directly be involved in attack ads, but they do have the ability to stop them. Likewise, candidates could put an end to the attack precursor of videotaping every word and gesture that an opposing candidate makes.

Although this week’s instance was a DFL’er objecting to a Republican Party tactic, we have no doubt at all that the DFL employs similar tactics against Republicans. Both parties should just knock it off, and the candidates at the top of their tickets — in this case, Tom Emmer and Mark Dayton — should see that it happens. If they don’t have the ability to control their own parties, after all, what hope have they of governing the state?

Politics is a dirty business. But even a dirty business ought to occasionally take a freshening shower, in this case by ending the practice of video tracking.