Another day, another mailboxful of slime.

Today’s delivery includes the same attack-and-counterattack voters (and, presumably, ex-voters) have gotten accustomed to in recent weeks. But one item in particular stands out not only from today’s load, but from much of what’s preceded it.

It’s a flier from the New Jersey Democratic State Committee. On the cover is what appears to be a mugshot of substance-abusing starlet Lindsay Lohan, looking as though she just went bobbing for apples in a piranha tank while stoned, and a headshot of Paris Hilton looking, well, not as bad.


Answer: Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck.

“Jennifer Beck: Her driving record is criminal,” it reads, just like that, with the word ‘criminal’ in bold.

In the expensive, invective-filled mudfest known better in these parts as the race for the 12th-district state Senate seat, this may qualify as the most pointed bit of rhetoric yet.

Here’s a bit from a story in today’s New York Times on just how ugly Beck v. Karcher has gotten:

For the Democrats, who are trying to protect and expand their slim Senate majority, no race has a higher priority, or is more cutthroat, than the re-election campaign of Ellen Karcher, a freshman who is one of the party’s most visible — and vulnerable — legislators. She is struggling to hold off a challenge by Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck in the historically Republican 12th Legislative District, where sprawling farms are giving way to ever-larger houses.

“All the venom in the state is being spewed there,” said Joseph R. Marbach, a professor of political science at Seton Hall University.

The race between Ms. Karcher and Ms. Beck has taken one ugly turn after another, with a flurry of ethics complaints, television attack advertisements and sniping about who is better suited to reform the state’s corruption-plagued government. Lately, the quibbling has turned personal, with accusations about Ms. Beck’s spotty driving record and whether Ms. Karcher is paying enough in property taxes.

Whether it’s fair to call Beck’s three license suspensions from the mid-1990s ‘criminal’ we’ll leave to the legal scholars.

And like a juicy tabloid headline, perhaps the humor of this one will become evident only after we’ve gotten past that first jolt of revulsion.

But at the risk of appearing partisan, we have to ask: is this really what we’ve come to politically? Is this in some perverse way that we’re not getting good for civil discourse, and thus good for democracy?

Have at it, folks…

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