None of the Above?


So politics has finally come to this – a mountain of bulk mail postcards and endless robocalls recorded on our voice mail. It’s been stunning how much paper, ink and time at the phone bank has been spent by candidates during this midterm election. I can understand these tactics for Senate and statewide offices, where geography is a concern. But now even local candidates are jumping aboard the remote control bandwagon.

What disturbs me is that these tactics replace old-fashioned, meet-and-greet campaigning. There’s little or no direct outreach, either by candidates or by their staff. Opportunities to look election hopefuls in the eye, ask them questions and judge them by their responses are nearly non-existent. If you want to meet a candidate, go to a fundraiser and open your wallet. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of their outbound marketing and the advice of their handlers.

Candidates for public office serve us, the public. That’s why they have to stand for election. Somehow, the idea of service has dropped completely out of the equation. Now, we’re being asked to vote for the person whose sound bites best match what we supposedly want to hear.  Actual accountability and interaction are out of the question, probably because we voters are now considered to be commodities, to be handled and packaged as much as possible, with increasingly sophisticated techniques.

There are two reasons why this trend should alarm any voter with a brain. First, it’s lazy. It presumes that voters can’t be trusted, and that candidates can’t be elected if they don’t follow, quite literally, the party line. There’s now so much money at stake for any election that everything must be controlled, run through endless focus groups and packaged. And, of course, in the end, every candidate begins to look just like all the others, since they’re all using the same group of professional advisers.

Second, and far more dangerous, is that it relies on the noise generated by all that paper and robocalling to numb voters into apathy. The advantage then goes to the incumbent, the most extreme or to the deepest pockets. Quality of character, leadership and vision get tossed by the wayside.

In the end, the only way for anyone to get ahead is to spend more and more money – which gives more and more control to the hacks, handlers and other hangers-on who make their living as political “advisors.” In response, we voters are doing the logical thing. We’re tuning out the whole mess. Voting rates trend downwards, incumbents or people listed at the top of the ballot tend to win and only extraordinary situations generate a true competitive campaign.

There’s no secret behind why we’re in this mess. Politics has become an industry, and recent Supreme Court rulings have unleashed massive amounts of cash into the system. It’s become a financial free for all that’s bad for politics, worse for civics and a terrible way to select our judges and representatives. There’s only one way out, and it isn’t going to be easy.

Vote.

Vote for candidates who will serve with passion. Who are willing to legislate, innovate and compromise. Who care more about their country and their constituents than their egos or the lobbyists’ payola. They’re hard to find, but the more of them we put into office, the sooner the tide will turn.

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~ by jld0077 on May 20, 2014.

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