Photo above: Doug Gansler, Heather Mizeur and Anthony Brown in their May 7 TV debate.
Democrat Del. Heather Mizeur caused quite a stir among supporters of Anthony Brown Wednesday when she wrote an op-ed for the Sun urging the 104,000 Democrats who voted for her for governor not to write in her name on the general election ballot, but to support Anthony Brown. What upset Brown supporters was not that message, but the lengthy criticism she heaped on Brown and his campaign.
Here’s another point of view of the Mizeur article by a Hogan supporter and frequent commentator Rick Vatz. We welcome comments, pro or con, at the bottom of the article as long as they are civil.
By Richard E. Vatz
The term “useful idiot” means an easily manipulated individual whom a cynical politician uses to promote his or her political ends while opposing the interests of that individual.
By that definition, Del. Heather Mizeur is indeed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s “useful idiot.” She claims to be the major force in combating “negative campaigning” but has opposed legitimate articulation of policy differences and protected Anthony Brown’s use of it.
In playing that role in the Democratic gubernatorial primary campaign, Mizeur was used by Brown to discredit any and all of Doug Gansler’s criticisms, which were quite acceptable contrasting arguments questioning Brown’s suborning spending and high taxation throughout the Martin O’Malley Administration.
Her tut-tutting led to Brown’s victory over her and Gansler by his winning more than their (Mizeur and Gansler’s) combined votes.
Decrying a nasty campaign
Citing a nascent movement to protest a vote for Brown or Hogan by writing in her name, Mizeur wrote an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, saying that the Maryland gubernatorial “campaign cycle has been an epic disaster…one of the nastiest in the nation.” She further recounts how her persistent appeals to Brown for an issues campaign were rejected after she met with him. After she went away thinking they were in agreement, she “received word” that Brown “was taking a different approach” by waging a personal campaign against Larry Hogan.
Mizeur then describes how she begged the Brown campaign to reconsider. They “ignored” [her word] her plea.
Thus Brown’s campaign, writes Mizeur, would “settl[e] on negative attack ads rather than to promote a positive vision.”
So, what does her op-ed say she will do? Why, vote for Brown, of course, and she urges readers not to write in her name as a protest.
Thus, despite being Brown’s “useful idiot,” as the term is traditionally employed, Mizeur “still embrace[s] the man that is Anthony Brown,” will vote for him and urges voters to do the same.
Negative ads work
People wonder why politicians engage in campaigns full of false, irrelevant and tasteless charges (the “FIT” test) when polls indicate that the public rejects such tactics. Why would Brown call Hogan “dangerous” and “radical,” and why would the Maryland Democratic Party charge Republicans with racism?
It is simply because they work. The public opposes such tactics conceptually, but is significantly influenced by them. Moreover, perpetrators of such campaigns can count on their “useful idiots” to continue supporting candidates who run such dishonest campaigns.
That doesn’t mean the electorate has to. The outcome of the gubernatorial race will reveal the public’s electoral reaction to untrue, irrelevant and ugly campaigns.
Richard E. Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model