Underestimating Voters’ Intelligence?

I’ve made no secret of my opinion that Greg Ballard has been an unfortunate mayor–a nice enough guy who assumed office mostly because the incumbent ran a terrible campaign, and whose total lack of background and understanding of what the job requires has allowed him to be “managed” by insiders who’ve been making out like bandits.

He may win re-election (although I wouldn’t bet any real money on that possibility), but I have to wonder about his campaign’s decision to hit Melina Kennedy for decisions made by Bart Peterson. I’ve seen several ads now that essentially say “When she was Deputy Mayor, X happened and X was bad. She was responsible for X. Vote Ballard.”

Granted, in the Ballard Administration the current Deputy Mayor (who actually can┬ádefine “urban” and “governance”) has been the prime mover of policy, but in most administrations, Deputy Mayors take their marching orders from the guy who won the election. They may be consulted–especially in matters where they have expertise–but they certainly don’t set policy.When I was in City Hall, the two Deputy Mayors disagreed with decisions made by the Mayor on several occasions. They communicated their opinions to the Mayor, and (appropriately) supported his policies publicly.

Deputy Mayors are assigned specific areas and tasked with implementing policy in those areas. If they do a poor job, it is certainly fair to criticize that performance, but trying to blame them for things their boss decided–or worse, for things that “happened” while their boss was in office, as they do in one of these commercials–is just silly.

Wouldn’t you expect that the people airing these campaign ads know that? Wouldn’t you think they’d expect voters to understand it?

Obviously, the folks doing Ballard’s ads don’t┬áthink we know that. They also don’t think we understand that tax rates–which Ballard’s ads tell us have “gone down during the Ballard Administration”–are determined by the Indiana General Assembly, and not by the Mayor, who deserves neither praise nor blame for the coincidence.

Granted, I am biased in this race, and further granted, I follow all these issues for a living and as a result, I’m probably more familiar with the way government works than most folks. But I find it difficult to believe that most voters don’t understand who calls the shots in an administration, and I find these ads offensive–not because they are negative (both candidates have run very negative ads), but because they assume that we voters are too stupid to know who does what.

Maybe they’re right. In which case, we are really in trouble.


  1. Next we’ll have the Ballard Campaign taking credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden which also happened during his tenure in office!

  2. It would be my guess that the majority of people have no idea who our deputy mayors are or what they do. How many people actually know who the city-county counselor even is? I don’t think most people vote based on valid information. Lots of people feel a civic duty to vote, but do they feel the same duty to find out the facts and pay attention? It would be an interesting political science study.

  3. Funny story.

    I just got called by the Ballard campaign. I guess they’re conducting a poll. They opened by talking about all the jobs that he has kept in the city and saying that he capped property taxes. I said, “I thought the Legislature did that.”

    The lady said, “well they did, but Mayor Ballard helped. So how are you going to vote this election, for Mayor Ballard or Mellina Kennedy?”

    I asked her how Mayor Ballard had helped cap the taxes. She said that she did not know. I asked why she would talk about something she had know knowledge about. She hung up on me.

    So maybe that’s why partisan polls are so skewed.

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