Saturday, November 10, 2012

Attack Ads

One of the most influential figures in my life is the second President of the United States, John Adams. A consummate family man, he sacrificed his own happiness, health, and career for love of his country and family. Thoroughly detailed in the historical non-fiction novel John Adams, written by David McCullough, the life of our founding father and patriot is an example of the devotion to independence that makes our nation unique. When considering how the two dominant political parties campaign against each other, a quote in the book by Adams resonated with me.

"Fear is the foundation of most governments but it is so sordid and brutal a passion, and renders men in whose breast is predominates so stupid and miserable, that Americans will not be likely to approve of any political institution which is founded on it."

Stupid and miserable. Attack ads made up over 70 percent of spending by the campaigns over the past 2 years and in some states (see Ohio) made up over 90 percent. What does that say about the people who are campaigning for these offices? The policies supported by each party are so polar as to be impractical or inefficient. When your own policies are lacking, the only recourse is to attack your opponent's and scare voters into voting not for you, but against the opposition. This inevitably leads to the the classic "lesser evil" scenario.

The question arises, will moving from party politics to primarily independents actually improve the campaigning process? In my opinion, yes. Instead of having partisan support for absurd policy, each candidate is entirely on their own to defend their views. We frequently see candidates in support of a larger policy that is scary to constituents but is considered necessary to be in line with larger party opinion. When candidates must stand on their own merits, elections will be determined not by who is the least dangerous or scary but rather on who most closely represents the wishes of the voters.

Part of our responsibility as voters is to support candidates for doing, as my grandfather is fond of saying, "the right things the right way." We need to reward candidates for backing policy with fact and reason. We need encourage candidates to run educational ads rather than attack/scare ads. When we work together, the electorate has incredible power. When candidates wish to be reelected, they need the support of their constituents. Call and email your representatives. Tell them you expect educational ads, you won't support scare tactics, you require scientifically and economically sound policy. Be passionate and be informed. Encourage your family and friends to do the same.

Passion and volume have real impact. Your vote is important but there are more ways to express your voice. Take 10 minutes, once a week, to contact your local and state reps. It's not necessarily the smartest or the majority that are heard, it is the loudest. We need to increase the volume of the independent movement.

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