‘I’ ON CULTURE
By this time in the election cycle, most people hate all the candidates. After all, if all of those ads on TV are correct, they are all evil (possibly supernaturally evil) characters out to ruin all of us. Would politicians spend all that money to tell us lies?
Don’t bother answering the question. We all know the answer. The problem with this system is that the politicians, a few days before the election, are finally turning toward telling us why we should vote for them. For months, all we have heard are complaints about the “other candidate.” Of course, if we have a favorite person or party, we assume that everything we hear about that one are lies while, of course, the opponent is the personification of all that is evil.
It is far simpler to accuse an opponent of doing something evil than to explain how your position on, for example, providing more jobs, would be achieved. It is certainly more exciting to accuse your opponent of something bad. There is a cute commercial out for FedEx that shows two competing politicians knocking each other while praising the company’s products. One finally says to the other, “Isn’t it great how we’re keeping this election clean?” — just in time for someone to bring out a sign that said, “Honk if you’ve had an affair with (the other politician).” That basically defines much of what we’re seeing this year, politicians complaining about what their opponents are doing while doing the same thing.
Name-calling is not new in American politics. George Washington was called “the stepfather of his country” by enemies. Andrew Jackson’s wife was labeled an adultress and a bigamist. (Technically, she was; her first husband pretended to be dead. She only found out years later that it was not true.) Abraham Lincoln was called an “obscene gorilla.” Grover Cleveland was hooted at as the father of an illegitimate child. Franklin Roosevelt was called an amazing number of nasty names. And every candidate in recent times has been targeted.
Such is political life. Most of the charges on all sides are not fully true. Currently, a Democratic candidate for Congress out here is being charged with having helped to pass enormous deficits despite that he wasn’t even in Congress when it happened. Yes, he might well support large deficits if elected, and there is a Democratic president in place asking for support. But he has not done it yet. And the Republican candidate in that district has been charged with being against mammograms because he objected to federal financing for Planned Parenthood since it began to actively engage in politics. The ads avoid the subtlety, however, and make charges based on scant evidence.
There are two real problems that stem from this practice. The first is, naturally, that many people do not completely understand the issues since the advertising spends almost no time on explaining positions in great depth. Even worse, however, is that by besmirching the reputation of your opponent, civilized discourse after the election becomes almost impossible. Supporters of the winning candidate celebrate, convinced that they thwarted the efforts of those morons who have given themselves to an evildoer. Of course, those who supported the losing candidate wind up hating the winner as well as all his or her supporters. Watching the advertising for this election — and, since we live in a swing state, there are an awful lot of ads — makes me wonder whether we are approaching Armageddon, the final battle of good vs. evil.
And in the battle, will both sides believe themselves the good ones? If I fully believe the ads of the Democrats, I should hate all the Republicans because they are destroying all that is good in America as they somehow have been fooled by the “1 percent.” And if I fully believe the ads of the Republicans, I must fear the Democrats, all of whom want to take all my money and give it to the corrupt and the lazy.
The most important thing for all of us to do is to learn more about the real positions of each candidate and, then, most important of all, to go out and vote. There is a very long ballot this year, with a lot of amendments and questions as well as a lot of elections besides the big one for president. So get out and vote. Whether through an absentee ballot, early voting or the voting on Election Day, make your vote count!