What I wanted to talk about tonight is something that occurs every American election cycle that is often ignored as "business as usual" and tolerated because sadly it seems, folks simply accept that political candidates spreading lies via the media is "OK". Well I got news for those folks, it's not "OK", not by a long shot.
Now I will be the first to admit that I am pretty damn cynical when it comes to politicians in general. Seemingly 99% of all politicians will do just about anything to get into office and/or stay in office. Further, it seems those who claim to be guided by a set of morals are often either corrupted during their stay in Washington D.C. or never really had them to begin with. For most of my political life (aka since I was old enough to vote) and regardless of my political philosophy (which has changed rather strongly in the last few years), I've normally seen politicians as this; "they're all slime balls, you just have to choose the least slimy". However, at some point, even a cynic such as myself realizes that simply thinking the absolute worst of our politicians is counterproductive.
But on the similar token, many folks have the same opinion towards the tactics of politicians, big and small, during elections. Attack ads and mudslinging is simply a way of life in American politics and no matter how bad they get, folks just seem to shrug it off as "OK". Well in my humble opinion, that attitude is only making matters worse. The American people shouldn't simply expect their politicians to fight dirty EVERY election and consider it the norm. We deserve better from our elected officials (or would-be elected officials in some cases) than tactics that even a child can tell are wrong (no offense intended). We all deserve better than this.
Which brings me back to this year's presidential race. As we all know, the two campaigns have resorted to some pretty outlandish tactics to try and one up the other in the polls. Everything from ads accusing one candidate of somehow causing the death of a person to accusing the other of saying "you didn't build that" to American businesses. As with most attack ads during elections, they are based a small tidbit of truth and then COVERED with a layer of BS thicker than Glenn Beck's head.
Now I don't deny attack ads are effective, quite the contrary. If they weren't effective politicians would have stopped using them years ago. But why are they so effective? There are lots of theories out there, but if you'll indulge me, here is mine: They think we're all idiots.
In the past I have written pieces on how "uninformed" the average American is about even basic history and civics. When you combine those cold hard facts with the rather depressing turnout on your average presidential election, it starts to make sense why such ads are effective. IMHO, such ads target two kinds of people: the politically indifferent and the ideologues. The political indifferent simply takes the information given in the ad at face value with no real urge to check for themselves (either due to disinterest or just laziness). The political ideologue also takes the ad at face value but for a very "good" reason, they are hearing exactly what they want to hear. Such folks are so entrenched in their political beliefs that no amount of fact-checking on this earth will convince them otherwise and ads that support their suspicious about the opposing candidate are seen as the "truth" because they don't see what they don't want to, plain and simple. Either way, such politicians think the average viewer of such ads is either too uninterested to fact-check the claims in the ad or are simply too blinded by political ideology to check for themselves.
Now I know that sounds a little harsh but sometimes the truth hurts. To me there is no other explanation. Every time I see a political ad (and don't mute it as I usually do), I make a mental note that later when I hit the net to look up that claim and see if there is any truth behind it. What I usually find is the claim is indeed based on some truth (then distorted) or it's just blatantly false with no basis in reality at all. Either way, I always wonder to myself, if it's so easy for me to check such things why doesn't everyone? Surely if a lot of folks out there did the same thing I do, such bogus attack ads would be shouted down and the candidate called out for the dishonest schmuck that they are. But guess what, they're not. In fact it's getting so bad that now even fact-checkers are being accused of political bias and are assumed not to be trustworthy by political ideologues on either side. This results in each party using such groups to try and discredit their opponents while simultaneously accusing these organizations of bias when THEY'RE the target of fact-checkers...How crazy is that?
The fact is, most folks simply assume what their party line says in political ads is true and those in the middle (such as myself) are left scratching their heads wondering what in God's name has happened to our political system. Some in the middle choose to go the route of "choosing the lesser of two evils". Some choose to give their vote to a third-party candidate who likely has no chance of even winning a few percentage points of the popular vote because they want to have a real choice (perhaps a losing one but at least its a real choice). Others sadly are simply disgusted by the whole thing and don't vote at all and wash their hands of it. To some degree I can't really blame those folks. With the percentage of political independents (aka the middle) growing every year, it's no real shock why our voter turnout is the joke of democratic nations the world over.
You might be asking yourself, "so what?" or "what can I possible do to change such things?" Those are valid questions and ones that likely MILLIONS of American voters think to themselves every election cycle. What you choose to do about this BS we are served every couple of years is entirely up to you. Only you as an individual can choose to be proactive and look up the facts about the candidates and the issues for yourself. I for one, will continue to hold politicians accountable to their words and when they speak BS, I will remember and come election time I think to myself, "does this person deserve my vote?" All I am asking is that you do the same. Before you decided who to vote for this fall (whether for Congress or President) ask yourself, does this candidate deserve my vote? Will his/her behavior/actions during the campaign make you proud to say, "I voted for them" when it's all over? If not, you have to ask yourself "why am I really voting for this person?"
One thing I have learned over the last few years is while most politicians are just one disappointment and lie after another, it doesn't mean we should hold our politicians to a lower standard. In fact if the tactics of our politicians gets worse, we should be holding them to a higher standard not a lower one. You don't reward this crap with lower expectations because that just continues the vicious cycle. The lower our expectations get the lower quality of candidates we will get and more childish and dishonest their tactics will become. The only way to end this cycle to honestly ask ourselves, "is this the best our nation can come up with for leaders?" It's about time our politicians start having a little self-respect and start campaigning on their records not on BS designed to simply make the other guy/gal look worse than you.
We all deserve better than this.
Any opinions and/or views expressed in the above piece are purely those of the author and not of any political or non-political organization. Any re-posting of this work MUST include this disclaimer.