Politics isn’t sports — sports, at least, has standards | BRAUCHLER | Opinion

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George Brauchler



Unity. That is the political word de jour in the aftermath of the primary elections this past Tuesday. I was in the trenches and on the ballot this campaign cycle and since Tuesday, the GOP mantra is “unity.”

I am not there yet.

Politics is a rough-and-tumble endeavor. In my five trips to the ballot over the past 16 years, I have thrown some hard punches and received many more. Accusations of inexperience, incompetence, being soft on crime and harboring values inconsistent with the party are routine. Partial facts are spun into something unrecognizable. But that is the game — and anyone doubting their ability to withstand such attacks should remain an anonymous social media troll. Some of the sharpest attacks come from within the GOP, and this year was no exception — just worse.

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The state and county GOP — in an unprecedented move—endorsed against me, not because I was unfit for office or that I did not share our party’s values. No, my great political sin was earning a spot on the primary ballot with 1,300 Republican signatures, rather than several hundred votes inside a gymnasium. Having lost nearly every race in which they endorsed, their message to me now — “unity.”

For those who liken politics to sports, they are wrong. Sports has standards for conduct, written and customary. Modern politics has none.

I am writing this watching my youngest boy play in a baseball game. Win or lose, those young men will cross the field to shake hands with each other. That is sportsmanship. In the past, it was customary in politics for the losing candidate to call the winner and concede and wish them well in service the community. My call to Phil Weiser the morning after the 2018 general election — sucked. I did not look forward to it, but it was appropriate and necessary. In primaries, it is even more important, because the campaign is only half over — and success is many times predicated on all the previously opposing factions uniting to defeat the other candidate in November.

But things have changed a lot since I was last on the ballot. Politics has become more mean-spirited and personal. Hateful. Toxic. The guardrails of decency that used to exist have been blown through so many times, we cannot see them anymore. Yet, despite the coarsening of the political process, the idea of HIOB (see HBO’s “Entourage”) and “just get over it” in the name of unity remains the expectation.

I do not agree.

There must be a limit to how we interact with each other in person, let alone in public. If we fail to set an acceptable standard now — the one to which we want future generations of candidates to adhere — politics will continue to deteriorate into a mosh pit of the most acerbic personalities. We must hold each other accountable and not simply dismiss the undismissable as “just politics.”

In my own race, it was of no particular consequence my opponent invented support for her campaign by nationally known conservative Allen West; or had to remove multiple social media posts claiming endorsements by people who had not endorsed her; or even joined with a small, extremist gun organization to perpetuate a false narrative about my record. In politics, those things are not unexpected.

It did not end there. My opponent’s campaign and supporters took a much more personal, aggressive and toxic approach to defeating me. It began as a complaint to Secretary of State Jena Griswold claiming I had been running a “shadow campaign.” They then attacked my license to practice law with ginned up complaints to the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Next up, my daughter, whom they made the subject of a Facebook page promoted by my opponent’s spouse. In the last few weeks, they claimed I had been fired from 710KNUS, accused me of committing numerous crimes, including bribery of a public official and misappropriating $30 million taxpayer dollars, and even more scurrilous, salacious and baseless claims. Nothing was off limits for them.

These are despicable and desperate acts, especially when my children access social media to follow their dad’s campaign. Absent an explanation or apology, and deleting them from social media, they remain in perpetuity.

Mine is only one account of many such candidates subjected to these types of attacks. Based on the lack of public objection or consequence, these tactics are increasingly accepted.

Not by me. Not anymore.

The election results were never in doubt. I gave my opponent a nearly 2-to-1 drubbing. Yet, my opponent never called to concede. Not even a DM or text. Instead, a misspelled tweet with some inane reference to “iron sharpens iron.” The truth is: excrement does not sharpen iron; it only gets the blade dirty. For the party, there was a quick call from those who campaigned against a fellow Republican — to say “let’s unite.”

Sure, but unity does not come from ignoring the “by any means necessary” approach to politics. What is needed for unity is personal responsibility. For all the little athletes out there shaking hands with their opponents, there must be a personal call — an apology, without which there can be no forgiveness. Withdraw the personal, hateful lies. And make a pledge to be better.

Let us unify on decency first. Politics will follow.

George Brauchler is the former district attorney for the 18th Judicial District and is a candidate for district attorney in the newly created 23rd Judicial District. He has served as an Owens Early Criminal Justice Fellow at the Common Sense Institute. Follow him on Twitter(X): @GeorgeBrauchler.

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