Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Paul Abrams Headshot

New Right Wing "Dirty Tricks" Campaign Tactic Being Tested in Washington State

Posted: Updated:

Crazed teabagging and screaming townhall meetings notwithstanding, the Republicans and right wing have never been so thoroughly distrusted and even despised by the bulk of the electorate. A smaller percentage of people nationally trust Republicans to solve their problems than there are dentists who do not recommend Crest®.

In Washington State, this identity crisis was first displayed in the 2008 Gubernatorial campaign. The Republican candidate, Dino Rossi, had lost to Democrat, Christine Gregoire, in 2004 by 127 votes, requiring a third recount and a court case before it was finally resolved.

During that campaign, Rossi tried to hide his right wing views, but not his identity as a Republican. In 2008, he eschewed the Republican label, and ran as "GOP Party." It didn't work; he lost again, this time by a comfortable margin.

Over the last 35 years the right wing built up an alternative universe of "belief tanks" and media that relentlessly hammered their opinions, often disguised as facts. Democrats still, for the most part, do not know how to respond effectively, but the Internet has blunted and exposed right wing lies, so that they do not work nearly as well as they did even five years ago. When John Kerry lost in 2004, for example, Facebook was brand new, and Twitter was not even a gleaming tweet in someone's eye.

The radical right wing never gives up. Instead of trying to win by speaking to issues people really care about, however, they have decided to go even more deeply undercover.

The tactic may be called, "Going Stealth."

Here is how it works. A group of wealthy, right wing zealots offered a benign-sounding charter amendment so that the King County Executive race would be "non-partisan." It seemed like a pleasant, soothing antidote to the bitterness of modern political fisticuffs, and passed easily. [Admission: I may have even voted for it myself!].

King County has a larger budget than 13 of the states, so this is not an insignificant position, and may be the most progressive, environmentally conscious county in the country.

They then selected a person with high name recognition, with zero experience--a former TV news anchor, Susan Hutchison, whose political views were largely kept under wraps while she was on the air, but are quite similar to Sarah Palin's, although Palin has far more experience.

So, the candidates are not known by their political affiliations, because the new law says there are to be none. That removes the shorthand busy people use to determine their votes, and in a progressive county would be a nearly automatic win for the Democrat. Additionally, Hutchison says nearly nothing about her views, spouting only homilies about cutting waste from government (she's never done it).

Finally, the demise of one of our two local newspapers--who themselves had quite different political slants--removes any drama that would cause people to look closely at just who Susan Hutchison really is--e.g., she supports the Discovery Institute that believes creationism should be taught in public schools as science under the guise of "academic freedom."

The "Going Stealth" bet: win on name recognition by keeping her views unknown, and the race uninteresting.

This is not so much the threat of a person with whom one profoundly disagrees getting elected--that is what democracy is about. It is more the threat of this campaign tactic being used to enable a victory for a person who, if the right labels and information had been available, would not have had a snowball's chance on our melting glacier of being elected.

That is, the word "stealth" contains within it the word "steal."

Hopefully, it is not too late. Local bloggers have awakened. Local radio programs are beginning to comment upon it. Young people have been composing homemade campaign ads (some even better than the pros), and posting them on YouTube. (Robber Barons and Dinosaurs, Kids and Elephants).

But, "Going Stealth" has a chance of working. Expect to see it popping up in your local elections as well.

Forewarned is forearmed.