Across the United States, congressional candidates have been working all summer long to communicate their message to the people. Here in the 24th District too, there have been candidates... but I really can't say what Ray Meier and Michael Arcuri stand for, other than themselves. Can you? What's the theme of their campaigns? What are the ideals, other than "elect me"?
Ray Meier's vapid stands are an easy target. His level of passion rarely seems to exceed that of Droopy the Dog, yet he manages to follow the Republican leadership into every crazy blind hole they've created anyway. Meier plays the game of a Color-By-Numbers Republican, taking all the positions that politicians in the Republican Party are supposed to take.
The same can't fairly be said of Mike Arcuri. On many issues, he doesn't seem to have much of a position at all. Here we are in September, and the Arcuri campaign is still working with the same old issue sound bites it released for a Utica Observer-Dispatch questionnaire way back in the springtime. The last time that the Arcuri campaign put a press release online was back in July. No, an announcement that Michael Arcuri's trading cards are finally available doesn't count.
I was given two of those Arcuri trading cards, along with a palm card, last month. There isn't a single thing on the palm card, not a word, not even a symbolic image, that indicates where Michael Arcuri stands on any important issue at all. The palm card doesn't even mention that Arcuri is a Democrat. Oh, it mentions that he likes reading and woodworking, and that he has done some Tae Kwon Do. But issues that are important to the district? Nothing.
The trading cards don't get much better. The two ones I've got have pretty photographs of Arcuri, and some interesting trivia about Ontario and Tompkins County. They have biographical information about Michael Arcuri, but what do they have to tell voters about why they ought to vote for Arcuri?
The following are the two "issue" statements offered on these little cards:
Michael Arcuri believes that the children are our future? Well, Whitney Houston said the same thing years ago, and look how far it got her.
It seems that the Arcuri campaign is counting on coasting to victory on the coat tails of the unstoppable Clinton and Spitzer campaigns, combined with the gargantuan negative ratings of the Republican Congress. Maybe that strategy will work, but I have my doubts. Given that the campaigns for governor and senator won't be anywhere close to close, many Democrats may decide that they don't really need to turn out to vote on Election Day.
Michael Arcuri might want to stop to reflect that it takes some genuine passion and idealism, not gimmicky handouts, to get voters interested in a campaign. It also takes a demonstration of passion and idealism to get significant assistance from outside the district.
Professional Congress watchers keep repeating Rahm Emanuel's line that this campaign is being fought hard, but when they do so, the details to support that contention are always suspiciously missing. The pretense is wearing thin.
Movie lovers may take note of the fact that our neighbors to the north in the 23rd District are getting real star treatment, thanks to the idealistic and scrappy campaign being run by Dr. Bob Johnson, who has been building support slowly but surely since the day after Election Day in 2004. Viggo Mortensen, the actor who played Aragorn, Son of Arathorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, will be appearing at fundraisers with Dr. Johnson three days in a row in different locations across the 23rd district at the end of this week.
Michael Arcuri can't get a Democrat or progressive activist with national standing to campaign with him for even an hour at a time. There's a reason for that - Arcuri hasn't given anybody anything to believe in.
Washington D.C. consultants can write all they want to about how this is one of the most contested congressional elections this year, but the plain fact is that there isn't really much in the election that's being contested.
When Tae Kwon Do and woodworking get more attention in a congressional campaign than the war in Iraq, you know that the campaign isn't about ideas. Whoopee.
I'll vote for Michael Arcuri, but it won't be because of Arcuri. It will be because I want to see a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, in the hopes that Democrats other than Arcuri will take a leadership role in setting America back on a positive course.