I don't know about you but I've had it with campaigning politicians in these last days of the campaign process.
Jeff Denham and Michael Eggman are slugging it out for Congress while Jack Mobley and Adam Gray are lobbing negative ads at each other in the state Assembly race.
To hear Jeff Denham's radio ads, you'd think Eggman would be the sole deciding vote on high speed rail. I already thought HSR was a slam dunk already. While I believe most of us believe high speed rail is nothing but a colossal waste of money that only benefits LA and San Francisco, Eggman wouldn't have the power to change anything about it if elected to Congress.
To hear Democrat Eggman's ads, you'd think Denham voted to shut down the government and probably push granny over the cliff too. No, government didn't shut down. But you'd right in assuming that Denham's sequestration budget vote in question was about trying to stop Uncle Sam from spending more than it collects. Apparently Eggman would have no problems with spending us into oblivion as we are doing.
Curiously, I laughed when I heard Denham state he is a "candidate for Congress" in a radio spot. Why not say he's the incumbent congressman for re-election? Oh, maybe because there is an anti-incumbent mood in the country and Denham might be hoping the voter forgot that (and his support of so-called amnesty for illegal aliens).
It doesn't get any better when it comes to state propositions. Buyer beware is a good saying to keep in mind. So when you come to Proposition 46, billed as the Medical Malpractice Lawsuits Cap and Drug Testing of Doctors Initiative, remember it's misnamed. It's really not about drug testing at all but about increasing the state's cap on non-economic damages that can be assessed in medical negligence lawsuits to over $1 million from the current cap of $250,000. If it passes, Prop. 46 will drive up insurance costs. Blame Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris for intentionally deceiving ballot signers by highlighting one of the sections that trial lawyers attached to the measure to hide their real intent.
But I must say something should change. The system of selecting candidates is certainly far from perfect. The problem is that most people are viewing politics as a spectator sport when it is not.
Most voters are already turned off by the system. They are cynical about any candidate being able to change what's messed up in our state and nation (and there are monumental problems in both). Making matters worse is the fact that a slew of political machines subject them to months of self-serving advertising that seeks to bash in the brains of the opponent. Those ads are not only expensive, but they say little about what a candidate actually wants to accomplish if elected.
Ultimately, the voters share in the blame. Political consultants tell us that the reason politicians run negative advertising is because it works. In a recent article I wrote on negative political advertising, California State Stanislaus professor Larry Giventer was quoted as saying: "Everybody deplores negative, so-called attack ads, but they absolutely work. People often vote in opposition to something that's detracting about a candidate rather than an affirmation to a particular policy or characteristic. This is a long tradition in this country."
The fact that negative advertising works irks me. People have become far too complacent in doing the vital research on candidates and where they stand. They rely on distorted TV commercials to base their opinions of candidates. And we all know that those ads do more about tear down an opponent to promote self.
Having said all that, I think we must make a differentiation between baseless negative ads and ads that accurately expose actual character defects, policy differences and questionable personal histories. I think they serve a purpose.
Where I - and most voters, I believe - have a problem is in the exaggeration ads. They are a real disservice to voters. You can always see them coming. Candidate A finds a small insignificant thing about his or her opponent, extrapolates some more ominous conclusion about the opponent, all while showing really horrible bad-hair-day photos of the opponent with eyes half closed to look sleazy. Let's not forget the ominously sinister dramatic tunes in the background. Then the ad flips to candidate A, the music gets perky, the colors get brighter and he looks so good as he shakes hands with the farmers or walks along with his happy family. Pure vomit material.
I have no doubts that political spin could be crafted to make the late Mother Teresa look as if she were a reprobate. Find and exploit someone who got less-than-perfect care from her, throw in a quote of hers made on an "off" day, run some photos that made her look sinister when she was not, play some dark, creepy musical strains and you can make Mother Teresa look like Satan. But that would be a misrepresentation, wouldn't it? But for many it doesn't matter because it's about winning at all costs. Nothing seems sacred in politics and that's sad that some become that desperate.
Those of us who stay educated on the issues and chose candidates based on agenda and vision aren't swayed by exaggerated political ads. They are seen for what they are: tools of manipulation intended to create doubt about opponents and cause fear. Remember that Giventer said people are more prone to vote against a candidate's negatives than vote for an opponent's positives.
No wonder the lazy electorate is agonized during election season. They are tossed about the stormy seas, maybe yes, maybe no, undecided, unsure. There is a solution, but it requires work few are willing to do. Mr. and Mrs. Voter cares more about dancing with the stars than who handles their tax money, and that's scary if you ask me. Slick mailers be damned, get more involved next time and let your own values, and thought process chose your candidates -- not the slick masters of deception. You have all the power over negative advertising if you'd just get more involved and do your research. In the internet age, the facts are a mere click away. Walk into the polls confident that your choice and values line up, no matter what those nasty ads tell you.
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