Our U.S. election process is about as sophisticated as a high school’s. The way it now operates, we the people are not given a choice in terms of leadership abilities but rather chicanery skills. Each campaign may start out to educate and inform but in the end the candidates are dragged down into the mud where they are forced to stay alive by throwing at each other handfuls of what they’re stuck in, while lying, obfuscating, misrepresenting and generally messing with our minds. Is this a way to elect someone to lead or represent us?
Then there’s the whole money issue. We have set a new record: $6 billion has been raised and nearly spent on all national campaigns for the White House, Senate and Congress. And $2 billion of that is just on the Presidential campaign. Think of the good that money could have done for the victims of Hurricane Sandy!
In an era doubled-over with economic cramps, we can find it in our hearts and wallets to shell out enough funds to grease the engines of deceit and support power grabs made by our politicians, but not to strengthen our state budgets, our schools, our small business loans, our environmental concerns, our rebuilding of infrastructure, you name it. No, instead American dollars are going to overpaid consultants and ad agencies. They take that money and make outrageously-priced commercials that blare out outrageously ridiculous claims. And we ourselves are not outraged? Have we been lulled to sleep by the process? This waste of money is downright obscene.
While he or she takes turns at the wheel, driving us toward that fiscal cliff, every pol talks about creating jobs, but all they’re creating are alleged jobs for people who don’t need them, those who say they know how to strategize, cheat and manipulate. That becomes the basis of our alleged economy. Isn’t there a wakeup call here somewhere?
A few weeks ago, the man who called television the “vast wasteland” oh, so many years ago, Newton Minow, came roaring out of retirement, to point out that all our budding emperors were spending too much on new clothes. In part, his op ed in the Oct. 2 New York Times said:
“Sadly, the marriage of television and politics in our country has been mostly a history of disappointment. In 1952, television stations — which are licensed by the FCC to serve the public interest — began selling commercials to political campaigns. Other democracies have rejected this idea, and instead provide public service time to candidates during campaign periods. Over the next 60 years, more and more political commercials flooded the airwaves, forcing candidates to raise more and more money. Many of the slurs and slogans in these commercials — which are often truth-free — are now paid for by super PACs and secretive 501(c)(4) groups. I believe it is unconscionable that candidates for public office have to buy access to the airwaves — which the public itself owns — to talk to the public.”
I agree with Newton Minow. In fact, we should get rid of all ads and spots for political campaigns. All they do is make money for media folks. They do not inform the electorate. They infirm us! They make us dotty. The twisted idea of debates alone is enough to frustrate a dog.
We should disallow all campaign advertising, unless the candidate is willing to be in his or her ad strapped to a polygraph machine. And we should get rid of what’s now referred to as the aftermath of the Citizens United decision, which gave us super PACs. That’s doing as much damage to our democracy as Sandy did to our landscape. With what the U.S. Supreme Court passed and with what has been allowed to stand and prevail without any oversight or enforcement is another outrage. Cash-wielding hitmen hiding behind charity masks have kidnapped the system and proven that the rich not only get richer, they also get all the power.
The only power we the people have left is the power over the remote. Let’s just turn off our television sets during election campaigns. Let’s do our own research and discuss the candidates with one another. Avoid the pundits. Who knighted them to tell us what’s going on? As it is, the election cycle really has become synonymous with the spin cycle. Well, the rinse is just about over. I think my brain is clean now. On Tuesday, I am voting No.
Arnie Reisman lives in Vineyard Haven, writes a regular column for the Gazette and with his wife Paula Lyons appears on the National Public Radio show Says You.