Months ago I advised readers to ignore televised political advertising. The logic was that you should do your own homework, examine the candidate’s positions on the issues, ignore the negative advertising, and make your decision unaffected by anything you might see on television. I was so wrong.
I had forgotten how overwhelming the ads become. Don’t ask, “How could you forget such offensive garbage?” My mind blocks out pain. The problem is that in any given race, take the Iowa senate race for example, the candidates soon establish the fact that neither of them is to be trusted, and the attack ads are no help in deciding who should get our votes. Both tell us not to trust the other one. And both of them are right.
For instance, one Joni Ernst commercial attacks Bruce Braley by saying that he voted to cut 700 billion dollars from Medicare. As with most TV ads, there is a smattering of truth to the claim, but it ignores details like the fact that the savings is not coming from cuts to existing benefits so much as it comes from future growth. And most of that future savings involves providers and efficiency, not beneficiaries. Half true at best?
On the other side, a Braley commercial claims that Ernst wants to privatize Social Security. Again, a smidgen of truth because she has indicated she favors reforms to Social Security, but the ad ignores the fact that she has limited her ideas to younger workers, and she has not suggested anything specific enough to be described as “privatization.” Again, half true at best?
Those are just the first examples that come to mind, mostly because they refer to specific commercials I watched on TV not five minutes ago. In short, either of these people seems willing to say anything, whatever it takes, to get elected. And who would be surprised? This election is a career maker. With Iowa’s record of reelecting incumbents, we won’t be seeing a new United States Senator from Iowa for quite some time. Unless the winner is observed running naked down Main Street, this becomes a lifetime appointment.
In a manner of speaking, we are hiring an employee to represent us in Washington. This person is supposed to speak for us. If I were a human resources director trying to choose from these two applicants, I’d be tempted to cancel the interviews and reopen the search for an employee we might be more happy with. Unfortunately, that’s not possible. These two are the best their parties have to offer. Just as unfortunately, the air has become so fouled with the half truths and outright lies that there is little chance of a normal person making an informed choice between the two of them.
There is, however, one fact that you can probably count on. Whichever candidate is elected to this senator’s job, Joni Ernst or Bruce Braley, our new senator is probably not going to stray far from his or her party line. And that certainty is the one piece of information you can use in the voting booth. In the past, I’ve never allowed myself to vote a straight party ticket. I’ve always felt I was voting for the individual, but you could do worse than voting a straight party ticket. And if you can’t bring yourself to do that, at least be honest with yourself and decide on the basis of how they have aligned themselves with one group or the other.
When it’s all over, you are going to get “A Republican” or “A Democrat,” like it or not. Whoever wins, especially in today’s spirit of total noncooperation with the opposing party, is not going to deviate from the party’s position. The result is that you’d just as well forget the individual, and think of them as representatives of their respective parties. Determine your most important priorities: balanced budget, gay marriage, foreign policy, climate change, cutting taxes, Social Security, reproductive rights, environment, right to life, educational funding, and all the other issues that matter to you. Look at each party’s stance on each of these issues, and make your choice.
And, if you are a one issue voter, you don’t have to think at all . (Yes, that’s sarcasm)