Sunday, July 29, 2012

This Bears Repeating, Until Election Day

During my local news tonight, I saw at least 6-8 commercials very critical of "Barack Obama" (that's that Republicans and their Super-PACs call the President, to reinforce the idea among racist voters that he is a freedom-hating, un-American foreigner) because of "his" deficits, and stimulus money he gave to friends and family (a lie, and a reference to the now bankrupt Solyndra, but who's keeping track?). So this bears repeating, until election day, in hopes that it will reach a few ears: the smallest government spender since Eisenhower is... "BARACK OBAMA!'

Incidentally, over the half hour of local news, there was only one ad for President Obama, which featured the President himself, calmly and quite civilly explaining that in the next election the choice couldn't be starker between himself and--wait for it--"Gov. Romney". The contrast between the angry, accusatory, and--quite frankly--borderline racist ads ran by or for the Republican candidate and the civil ad running for President Obama couldn't be clearer.

I know that Democrats and their Super-PACs have run negative ads against Gov. Romney, but they were generally, by today's standards of political conduct, factual and respectful: They asked tough questions about facts, and about the obvious weakness of Gov. Romney: that there is not one issue on which he hasn't taken diametrically opposed positions if it helped earn him the favor of a political constituency. The same cannot be said for Republican ads, which have very little to do with facts and a lot to do with painting President Obama as the prime practitioner of crony politics and reckless spending, which is particularly astounding coming from the party of a truly crony and reckless spender, who all but bankrupted the nation: George W. Bush.

After half an hour of negative ads, I was so disgusted by the tone of the rhetoric that I started wondering: What kind of person responds POSITIVELY to that kind of commercial? What does it say, about our politics and about us, that political organizations and candidates confidently spend hundreds of millions of dollars each election seasons to influence the opinion of a few million people whose mind is not made up yet, and whose votes the election basically revolves around? And what does it mean that many of the voters who are targeted by those ads do accept, and in fact end up basing their voting preference, on narratives so false and so offensive that they would want most of us turn our TV sets off?

If I were an undecided voter I like to think that I would end up voting against the candidate who runs such ads because the commercials say so much more about him than about his opponents. I find their viciousness and their use of lies repulsive, and I would hope that I am not the exception among voters. But even if my views reflect the views of a plurality of voters, the fact is that in such a closely divided electorate a small minority can make a destructive difference for the outcome of an election, and the lives of millions of Americans.

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