Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Had Enough Yet?

As the current political campaign season enters its final weeks it seems that we are going to be hammered by ads disparaging the candidates. It is bad enough that they persist in taking these viscous shots at each other, but they also play pretty fast and loose with the truth.

We are protected by laws that ensure truth in product advertising, but there is no such protection in political ads for the most part. A few states (such as MN) do have laws on the books to try to outlaw outright lying, but it seems that they are largely ineffectual and are no real deterrent. There is an interesting article on this at FactCheck.org.

Some examples from races in our area are particularly blatant. Our district's state senator has spent his entire term working to defeat any legislation that might spend any more money on schools, in the goal of keeping taxes down. However, the campaign literature that he sent to my house touted all of his efforts to benefit our schools. When they are struggling to pay their bills I don't see how he can claim to have been so helpful. Our illustrious Governor has run TV ads featuring a person who states that 'I'm not being paid to say this, I'm not an actor, I'm an accountant'. This person then proceeds to point out how the challenger's proposed expenditures will cost us all so much more in taxes. Later we hear that this 'non-actor' is actually an official in the Governor's party. He is made out to look like an impartial outside observer, when he is nothing of the sort. It would have been fine to have this person state that he is an accountant and has problems with the challenger's plans, but to throw in the implication that he is unbiased goes too far.

On top of these we see way too many examples where voting records and candidate statements are purposely misrepresented and taken out of context so as to paint an ugly picture. A vote for a bill with many amendments is taken as outright support for all of them - especially the ones that can be presented as evidence of a 'bad' voting record.

The way these folks lie and cheat in order to cover each other in mud it is no wonder they are regarded with less respect than sewer rats. And then they wonder why nobody likes politicians. Maybe if they would focus on promoting their positives, and just pointing out the true negatives of their opponents, they could start to work back toward a semblance of trust and respect. I am sure that some of them are good people who want to work for the betterment of society, but you'd never know it from the ads we are fed.


wunelle said...


I just think you have the tiger by the tail with this topic, since, for me anyway, it just taps into a bottomless wellspring of cynicism and corruption, with the very basest and darkest side of human nature lurking here. Time and time and time again over the years I've listened to politicians in their ads disparage negative campaigning, but, like Hitler and violence, in the end you must match the weaponry trained against you. It takes an extraordinary person--and perhaps an even more extraordinary message--to steer clear of this vortex. And the irony is that the more disillusioned we become about Congress the less open we are to messages that stray too far from our comfort zone. (And anyway, how far can you stray from that comfort zone? "It's time to clean up this mess?" Who doesn't say that?)

On a related subject, I see the stuff going on now with Mark Foley and the Republicans' attempts to circle the wagons (covering their ass when the same people found Clinton's dalliances with a consenting adult an impeachable offense), and I am reminded that if politicians are poison, those who attempt to claim the moral high ground are infinitely moreso. I just don't trust anything said to me by any of them, and less so when they are attempting to promote "decency" or to justify harsh measures. Farther to fall.

I am no card-carrying Democrat--I hold them in the same contempt I hold all politicians--but it is unfathomable to me that every single Republican running for election in November would not be defeated. What we have now can hardly conform to any civilized person's vision of what our society should look like.

Jeffy said...

The amazing thing about the negative advertising is that while everyone claims to dislike it and says that it turns them off on all candidates, it seems to work. At least this is what the candidates claim. They seem to know that negative ads are widely despised, but their research tells them that in spite of that the ads work.

It is not too hard to see why. It is much easier to make folks believe bad things about your opponent than to believe good things about you. And when you can lie with impunity about your opponent there is no limit to the bad things you can say about them.

Unfortunately, while the ads probably do give one candidate an advantage over another, the side effect is that they drag down both candidates. The advantage that one candidate gains is not due to an elevation of his standing, but due to a lesser lowering of his standing relative to his opponent's.

Luckily we have only a few more weeks to decide who we hate the least.