Pundits shouldn’t run for office. Such candidacies drive the wedges between already narrow constituencies deeper, and the candidates themselves learn all the wrong lessons about humility and the value of representing your opponent fairly. This is even truer in a city like this one, where those running are likely to live a block away from each other.
Which is why it’s so disappointing to learn that Kyle Szarzynski used negative literature to disparage Scott Resnick, his opponent in the District 8 aldermanic race.
The piece, released last week, compared five attributes of their candidacies, starting with the fact that Szarzynski is currently a University of Wisconsin student and Resnick is not.
That’s true. But Resnick and Szarzynski entered school at the same time – six years ago. The argument is simply a testament to the fact that Szarzynski has not graduated. Resnick may not be enrolled in classes, but his ability to finish school in the customary timeframe is hardly a shadow hovering over his candidacy.
The piece goes on to point out that two groups, Downtown Madison Inc. and the Madison Police, have endorsed Resnick. And in case names alone don’t strike a properly insidious tone, the piece reminds readers that Downtown Madison Inc. favors “big business and property owners over the interests of students.”
The piece also lambasts Resnick for having been endorsed by the Madison Police, which according to Szarzynski spends too much time busting underage drinkers and pot smokers.
Nevermind that both Resnick and Downtown Madison Inc. have actively fought the Alcohol Licensing Density Ordinance, which restricts the availability of venues for students, or that neither candidate has made any mention of marijuana before this. Or that the police union, and not the department, endorsed Resnick. It’s easier to just paint broad, negative strokes and allow misinformation to serve as a substitute for the much harder task of explaining why you are a qualified candidate for office.
Szarzynski’s decision to go negative wouldn’t be so egregious if his record as an organizer came anything close to respectability itself. But Szarzynski was fired from the Daily Cardinal and removed from the Student Services Finance Committee for missing too many meetings.
And if he sincerely believes that candidates should be open about themselves, he might want to start by opening up his own blog, which served as his platform for long, hurtful tantrums against anyone who disagreed with him. In the interest of said openness, I was a frequent subject of those tantrums. But that’s only because of my rogue vote for Mussolini in 2008.
As for Resnick, he is far from the corporate tool Szarzynski would have you believe he is. Resnick has worked with low-income defendants in the criminal justice system, organized for Barack Obama and served with distinction with the College Democrats. Hardly the credentials of someone sympathetic to the idea of busting pot smokers. Resnick could come out and call Szarzynski a dishonest candidate, but he’s pledged not to use attack literature to win.
Was this column an elongated example of the same negativity Szarzynski engaged in with his unprecedented decision to so misleadingly disparage a candidate that did nothing to deserve it? You bet it was. But opinion pages – and closed blogs, for that matter – have always been the domain of pundits. Political campaigns, especially in a city as thoughtful as this one, deserve candidates. Szarzynski should start acting like the latter.
Sam Clegg ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in economics.