Regardless of the outcome of this 2012 national election, first and foremost I am so glad it has finally ended. On voting day, long before the polls had closed and the returns started to come in I felt once more like a ten year old boy on the last day of school at the beginning of summer vacation. I believe we have all just witnessed what can only be called national insanity. Lack of substance, ridiculous sums of money and the encouragement of divisiveness and disrespect are, for me, what characterized the elections of 2012.
The process of national elections in the United States has to be an abomination in the eyes of any possible heaven that might exist, and certainly ought to be the object of ridicule and disgust by the rest of the world. To begin with, there are people in need, people suffering in this country and around the world whose lives could be forever changed by a drop from the bucket of billions that our politicians see fit to spend on their campaigns. To a hungry child it must be like watching a rich fat man order squab only to use it for fish bait, then catching a fish only to have it mounted on the wall without anyone having a bite of anything. I know there aren’t many still alive who lived through the depression; but most of us have heard stories from our parents or grandparents. Can you for one moment imagine what they would have thought about using so much money to do nothing more substantive than to call an opponent and asshole? There is something to be ashamed of; and to borrow from the religious, there is a real sin. I do vote; but do not and will not donate one penny or one minute of my time to the service of politicians. After all, these are not the best of the people our society produces and if you know just one person who is not in prison for murder, rape, child molestation or robbery you know a person better than most of those we waste time listening to, electing and sending of to make up the rules we are supposed to live by. Basically, candidates are people applying for jobs. All of us may have bought a new pair of shoes (except the other Dana) a suit or dress to make a good impression when interviewing for a position; but come on, these guys don’t go out without war chests filled with more money than it would take to put an end to homelessness, hunger and find a cure for Lou Gehrig ‘s Disease. We don’t need the so called debates, we need interviews that candidates can’t take control of and have to answer the questions they’re asked if they want to have a chance a getting the job.
Since we don’t have interviews, however, we end up with six months of accusations, name calling, empty promises and down right pants on fire lies instead of substantive statements about why they should get the job and what they’ll do if they get it. In an interview the interviewers don’t have to be satisfied with a statement of what the candidate wants to do, but can actually require an explanation of how he or she expects to do it. I saw far too many TV ads that tried to use images, sound and voiceovers that tried to influence me to vote for candidate A because candidate B is an asshole. So, the logical conclusion I reached during this campaign was that we were being asked to choose a president from between the two biggest assholes the nation could find. That doesn’t make me particularly proud. If you got much more than that from their television campaigns it must be you’re getting confused with something you must have read somewhere.
Now I realize that negative advertising has been around a long time and that it’s stayed around because it works; but the consequences of so much of it, I do believe, is the bitter divide we now see in our congress and among ourselves. Negative ads do work to a large part because they imply fear. “This candidate is an asshole and you should fear what that asshole might do to you if he wins.” That’s exactly what they keep bombarding us with through the disguises of creative (at least some times) advertising and production. Believe me, the people who create those television ads know what they’re doing and they hope to do it skillfully enough that all of you won’t.
If you’re old enough you may recall when anything that came from the old Soviet Union was propaganda; while anything that came from our “free” press was the truth. Well, the truth is there’s always been plenty of American propaganda. It was just more skillfully delivered than the Soviet product. In fact, before Fox News and MSNBC it was so skillfully handled that most people didn’t even believe it existed. Propaganda, like negative advertising, works. Increase the frequency of exposure and the effective influence of the propaganda or negative advertising increases proportionately, at least to a point. The recent presidential campaign has effectively taught us to distrust and even dislike anyone who sides with the opposition. The recent campaign has deepened our divide and raised temperaments from disagreement to anger and even hatred. This, of course, is not a good thing; but unless we rise above ourselves to an unprecedented level of collective wisdom, it will be the vehicle that destroys us beyond reclamation. If this campaign revealed anything it unfortunately might be that our process of elections has become so petty, so expensive and so negative that regardless of who sits in the White House, we our bound to destroy all the good things we have had going for us. I wonder what the country will look like in 2050?