--I am very concerned with what is going on leading up to next Tuesday’s elections. Very concerned. I think the trends do not bode well for society in general and they had better start turning the other way or bad things, things which will hurt people, will happen.
The focus of my deep discontent is not what is being said and about whom. Half-truths, innuendo, and outright lies have been hurled at one candidate or another from their opponents since caveman Ugg ran for dinosaur catcher. It is a sad reflection on the state of mankind, but it seems to be in the DNA of some of those who run for office. However, I am talking today about something far more sinister I see happening.
Let me paint a scenario to bring the matter into focus. Candidate A wants to be an elected leader. They think they can do the job and they want to try. They must place themselves up for the scrutiny of their fellow citizens and be elected to the job. Another person, we’ll call them Candidate B, feels the same way and they also offer themselves up for scrutiny. Upon hearing this, Candidate A’s friends start whispering that Candidate B is unworthy and ‘how dare they run against our Candidate A?’. It at this point controversy develops. The citizens choose up sides and they start quarrelling amongst themselves. Then somebody asks, “Well, what do the candidates themselves think?”. And even though neither candidate wants to, they engage in a public debate.
Now, one of the things we learned in the schoolyard is, you don’t keep your friends for too long if you disagree with them in public all the time. So, you’re not going into this debate with the idea of saying how you are sure the other candidate is a fine person but you just disagree with them when all your followers are calling them a ratfink. So you exhibit a dislike for this otherwise good person and try to show to everyone how unworthy they are to have the job you want. This is where the trouble starts. Exaggerations turn into half-truths. When they start to resonate with your followers you try to change the minds of the other candidate’s followers by casting doubt in their minds. To do this you make up stories and innuendos and eventually resort to bold-faced lies. You start off as a nice person and over time get swept up into a negative political campaign.
Meanwhile, the other candidate, who might be a nice and ethical person, comes to the realization that perhaps the first candidate isn’t as nice a person as they once thought and they begin to do the same thing in retaliation. Before you know it, both sides are lying and demonizing the other side’s candidate. This does not serve the citizens who will go to the polls well. Political ads and debates originally designed to inform the voters of the positions of the candidates on the issues are now turned into a festering swill of lies. Everybody loses something when this happens. It is usually their reputation. But once it starts, neither side will give it up because history has proven that one of the two candidates will win regardless and they have a 50/50 chance that it will be them. If you want to know why so many people don’t want to vote, look here. Good people don’t want to be part of this foul-smelling baloney.
So far, this scenario is nothing new. But here is the new twist we are seeing which I think is dangerous and which I think requires our collective attention. A few years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court interpreted our nation’s constitution to allow very rich people from anywhere in the country to make huge monetary contributions to like-minded candidates anywhere else in the country. On the surface, that doesn’t seem bad, and one is hard-pressed to disagree with the learned members of our Supreme Court. But the unintended consequences of this decision, when combined with the aforementioned weaknesses in the campaign process, give rise to something which no American can be proud of.
What is happening now is that rich people in California or Utah or Florida or New York are now buying advertising in Rhode Island to say rotten things about opposing candidates. They are contributing massive amounts of dollars to confuse us further, as if we weren’t having enough trouble sorting out the truth already. This has just started happening and is already taking an out-of-hand problem and blowing it up to monsterous proportions.
Let me describe what is happening by means of this imaginary story. Imagine we see the Boston Marathon runners start running from Hopkinton to Boston. Before this Supreme Court decision, we would see the frontrunners tripping the other frontrunners in order to eliminate the competition. It’s unfortunate, but in our story it is an accepted part of the race. Now, after the Supreme Court decides that anyone can participate in the race, even if they’re not running, thousands of people from all over the country come into Massachusetts and line up along the race route and THEY start tripping runners until the roads are strewn with prone bodies and nobody at all can run because they are busy stepping over the bodies of those who were tripped. This is no way to run a race. And the real-life counterpart of this imagined story is no way to run a government or a society.
I suppose I should be happy that anyone can run for high office, even if they don’t have tons of money now. Millionaires from out-of-state will spend the money to run our elections for us. We’d like to see everyone have a chance, but not at the expense of the truth and good government! And not at the expense of having out-of-state millionaires run my government!
I can honestly say that I have not seen one ad in our Rhode Island governor’s race which was paid for by their own campaigns since well before Autumnfest. I have been seeing some nice ads for other people running for other offices, and believe me, I am inclined to vote for anyone who is running a positive campaign.
Until we can pass laws to fix this problem, I suppose it is up to us to do the best we can. And I think the best we can do right now is to ignore the lies and focus on the truths and understand that this whole thing has escalated to the level that even the candidates themselves are not in control of their campaigns anymore. Out-of-state rich people are trying to control who gets elected in Rhode Island. I resent this. And I reject it.
At least we have the small comfort of knowing that every ad broadcast on radio and TV in this country must, by law, clearly announce who paid for it. If the candidate didn’t pay for the ad, I say ignore it.
--That's what I think. What do you think? Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Dave Richards, WOON Radio, 985 Park Avenue, Woonsocket, RI 02895-6332. Thanks for reading.