Imagine a world where elections were won by over-the-top spending of a different sort, say donating millions from campaign coffers to pay down the national debt. Or spending to actually help someone: creating jobs for the jobless, homes for the homeless, assisting those left destitute by weather, war, disease or corporate raiding.
Now that you have imagined high purpose, turn on your TV. Almost any channel will do during prime time. The election ads you will see feature distortions, half-truths. Say candidate x voted against an ethics bill. Maybe that bill didn’t go far enough, maybe it had a rider raising or cutting taxes, or granting a presidential power or some pork barrel project wasting millions.
Any legislator or senator with a voting record has been in a bind at one time or another, having to choose the lessor of two evils according to his beliefs. Yet these unqualified sound bite ads are offered up to us as if they held facts revealed instead of obfuscated, and all backed by emotional music and images. This has cheapened, poisoned and polarized us. In the guise of free speech, this has enabled monied partisans on both sides to fool some of the people some of the time.... But the reality of any legislative situation is more complex than a two-minute ad. And the tasteless spleen-filled ads I see daily, more nearly resemble a mental mugging than the civic discourse they pretend to be. Don’t think I don’t mean your candidate.
At the paper where I work, letters to the editor attacking a candidate are not accepted for the last week before the election. Partisans may tout their favorite, but may not blast the opposition at the last minute when there is no time for a rebuttal. For television, a ban on negative ads beginning a month before the election would give us relief from the onslaught of tawdry distortion blaring endlessly from the tube right now. TURN OFF YOUR TELEVISION IN PROTEST.
Join me in my small bid to change this disgusting election curse. Help America toward civil discourse! Ban negative TV campaign ads! Or at least ban them in the last 30 days of the campaign, so last minute lies, later debunked, can’t tip elections.
---- Mar Walker, 10/28/2006
POST SCRIPT 2011: OVERTURN Citizens United!!!