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When politicians promise to run clean campaigns, what does it mean?

August 19th, 2014 · 26 Comments

When the NPA made a big splash out of signing Code of Conduct pledges last week promising no personal attacks and a campaign based on the issues, it made me curious about how frequent something like this is. (I thought I heard a suggestion at the signing that it was the first ever in Canada.)

As it turns out, they’re somewhat common and becoming more so, to the point that the state of California, for instance, has a recommended code of campaign conduct that it suggests for aspiring politicos. (That code, along with others I found along the way, goes further than the NPA’s, with promises not to misrepresent either the other side’s positions, i.e. interpreting some minor vote as being that the candidate is opposing some motherhood issue vehemently, or to misrepresent themselves.

But, as people I contacted for my story suggested, as much as regular voters say they like clean campaigns and as much as candidates promise them, those campaigns can be hard to stick to once parties feel like they’re backed into a corner. Also, they note, it doesn’t mean that negative is off limits — it’s perfectly okay to be negative about the opponent, if that negativity is about real positions they took or real mistakes they made.

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