Election 2008

national, politics, dirty tricks
Tony Dejak/AP

Incivility Among the Candidates’ Supporters Intensifies

October 17, 2008 07:56 AM
by Christopher Coats
As Election Day nears, incivility among McCain’s and Obama’s supporters has spiked across the country, with efforts ranging from offensive to mystifying.

Going Where Candidates Can’t, or Won’t

While John McCain and Barack Obama have spared no expense creating ads to frame their opponent in the worst possible light, their supporters, from individuals to state parties, have continued the fight, taking the debate in an increasingly negative and combative direction.

Perhaps the most widely reported occurrences of stark negativity have been the series of remarks McCain supporters have yelled from the crowd at his recent campaign events, earning the Arizona senator criticism for their actions.

However, individuals and groups on both sides have taken on their competition with venom.
Although both candidates have insisted that they intend to stay above the fray, state parties and special interest groups have stepped in to launch increasingly angry and arguably offensive attacks.

In California, the Chaffey Community Republican Women club distributed a newsletter with an illustration of Barack Obama mounted on a food stamp with images of fried chicken, watermelon and Kool-Aid surrounding him.

Meanwhile state parties in California and Virginia made direct public comparisons between Obama and terrorist Osama bin Laden.

One anti-McCain group has launched a campaign questioning the Senator’s health and well-being, while another takes aim at McCain’s reputed short temper, suggesting instability.

However, this spike in incivility has hardly been relegated to organized groups, as numerous cases of campaign-related anger and confrontations have found their way into national headlines.

In Sugarland, Texas, outside of Houston, a woman was charged with disorderly conduct after she threatened a man with physical violence for having an anti-Obama sticker on his car.

Countering the calls to violence heard at McCain rallies in Florida, Pennsylvania and New Mexico, the McCain campaign has pointed to shirts worn by Obama supporters labeling McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, with an offensive slur.

Taking a more unusual approach to his political anger, a parking lot owner in North Carolina posted warnings that supporters of Barack Obama were no longer welcome to store their cars there.

“I don’t know how many ways you can interpret it. If you’re an Obama supporter, you’ve got an Obama sticker on your car, you’re not welcome to park here,” Henderson told a Greensboro CBS affiliate station.

Analysis: Are candidates really to blame?

With so many supporters on both sides of the issue, some have begun to question just how responsible the candidates are for the deeds, or misdeeds, of their supporters.

Earlier this year, Bill Moyers looked at the debate surrounding how responsible candidates are for the words and actions of their supporters, citing numerous cases on both sides where nominees were pushed into apologizing on behalf of their supporters.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines