Think of this as Volume 11, Number 44 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
Here is a headline from next Wednesday's paper.
The personal crap did not work.
By personal crap I mean ads like the one above, designed to make one candidate seem like a bad person, with bad motives. This is an extreme example of the type, but similar ads have long been a campaign staple. Usually they work.
Not this time. A lot of the down-ticket races will go this time to the candidate who goes positive first, who talks about what they stand for, and what they want to do, first, rather than trying to paint their opponent as a bad person.
Hate is a luxury at times like this.
Hate is a luxury when you can remember having plenty and find yourself with nothing. Hate is a luxury when you have been brought low, you're sitting there stunned, and you need a reason to get back up.
I'm not talking here about ads which point out a difference between two candidates, which criticize the other person's record or their stands on the issues. You can make such ads, and run such ads, and some will be effective. But make sure, as of the moment you read this, that your campaign has a positive message for the weekend or you are going to lose.
Hate is a luxury at a time of crisis. Hate is not to be confused with determination. Back in 1968, at the height of our last crisis, the Nixon campaign closed with an ad saying something like "This time, vote as if your whole life depended on it" and that was fine. You want people to feel that the coming election is important, that their vote is vital to the outcome. Had Nixon closed with ads saying Humphrey hung out with hippies (something many of his supporters felt at the end, since Humphrey had come out against the war in Vietnam by that time) it's possible he would have lost.
Or think about the last two elections which took place against a backdrop of economic pain. Did Reagan close with negative ads? Did Clinton close with negative ads? No. And if you want a chance of winning on Tuesday you had better not, either.
One more thing.
These long voting lines in my home state of Georgia, in Florida, and elsewhere, all the games being played by Republicans to depress the vote among black people and brown people and poor people and young people. Usually they work.
Not this time.
This time all that voter suppression crap acts as a teachable moment. It lets grandparents talk to grandchildren about the struggles they faced, it moves the grandchildren to listen, and it gets those grandchildren into the voting line with determination and feeling.
I can't tell you how fine it felt for me to go to downtown Decatur with my daughter the other day so we could cast our votes early. I'm going to be driving people to the polls Tuesday. I'm going to be leaving it on the road.
I spent a few extra moments checking my ballot. I smiled when I saw the name Barack Obama there, with an X next to it. I savored it. And I offered smiles and kind words to every poll worker I met, even the one who barked for me to get to the end of the line. Thank you for being here, I said. Thank you for helping. They were smiling too.
In ordinary times voter suppression can win a close election. In flush times an ad showing white hands ripping a letter the announcer says means a black man is getting a job you wanted can make sense. When it's us vs. them, you can gin up the us and keep out the them.
But not this time. Not now. We need all of us, together, talking seriously and acting boldly, to save what our forefathers built and what we've sought for our children.
I felt good after I voted, but I felt even better yesterday, when I drove by that same early voting station and found a line out the door and down the block. I felt good this morning when I saw pictures from an early polling station in the Atlanta suburbs, a line four hours long the announcer said, mostly black people and brown people and young people, determined to be heard.
This election can still be stolen. This election can still be lost. But it will take something very blatant, something Zimbabwe-like, to steal it now. And there are millions of people on the march aiming to see that does not happen.
If you want to win, celebrate that. If you want to win, embrace that. Run positive ads, stop with the mud-slinging for a weekend, remember that as a candidate you have just volunteered for a hard job, as your opponent has volunteered for a hard job, and that the winner Wednesday may in fact be the person who does not have to do that hard job.
Smile. Think of it as democracy in action. It's a precious gift, a divine inheritance. It's Christmas in November. And we need that gift now.