Petty Politics and Our Midterm Election


Politicians debating. Graphic courtesy of Creative Commons

Anthony Saldana

Popularized once again during the 2016 presidential election, professionalism in politics has become a controversial topic. Currently in the White House, we have a president who’s promoted sexual assault with his famous clip saying “grab them by the p*ssy,” a first lady who wore clothing saying “I Really Don’t Care. Do You?” after visiting migrant children and a press secretary who told the public to attack a local business. Politics have become more aggressive than ever with latest campaigns showing a perfectly split divide between candidates. Back in 2016, when Donald Trump ran against his biggest competitor, Hillary Clinton, he presented himself as a “true politician”, one who could say whatever he wanted, true or false. Hillary, on the other side, tried to be professional and stay constant in her responses. Even though she wore a red pantsuit and studied her responses, she eventually lost to the man who called her a “Nasty Woman.” This proved the best way of winning an election was to be petty.

With elections being more important than ever, political strategies have been put specifically in the spotlight. During our recent midterm election between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, it mirrored the same contrastic identities as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Their constant fight during debates and social platforms became the stark contrast between the two: one willing to manipulate the public and one willing to keep his dignity.

Cruz originally began to attack Beto by launching campaigns against his old punk rock days and skateboarding, but his attempts eventually backfired. It only put Beto in a positive light: as a candidate who is laid back and relatable. As a response to this, Cruz’s campaign became aggressive by releasing a heavily spliced video of Beto saying “I think there is something  inherently American about that, and so I am grateful people are willing to do that” after a question was asked about burning an American flag. Beto simply ignored it, stating that he and his campaign will not sink to Cruz’s level.

The greatest example of this became clear during the last debate between both candidates. The debate started with Cruz insulting and arguing as usual, but for the first time Beto changed his strategy. He used the nickname “Lyin’ Ted”, the same nickname was originated from President Trump found its way into our midterm elections and into the mind of Beto O’Rourke. It was so out-of-character that even Ted Cruz picked up on it saying, “It is clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack.” Beto was always the complete contrast to Cruz, being professional and structured, but due to this political culture, Beto had to quickly adapt. Beto obviously wants to be the clean candidate, but is that even possible in 2018? With Ted Cruz running attack ads 24/7 on television, splicing videos and insulting him during the debate, Beto is forced to respond differently from his beliefs. There’s no way to win without matching the opponent’s level, at the state of the election, Beto had to change and he did. He then began to run attack ads but he still did it in his same politeful way. He did not use spliced videos and false information, but unfortunately that only hurt him in the end. After a close election, the candidate who adapted to the petty political culture was able to win against the candidate who tried to stay clean. Beto keeping his same values and only slightly adapting ended up hurting his campaign. The only way to win elections is to become the petty one and always create new lows for politics. With Ted Cruz winning the election, it only proves how being petty is the only way to win nowadays.