October 25, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1)

Ah, the smell of burning wood (2), the nip in the air (3), leaves crunching under foot, and the fall elections . . .


I've heard several friends talk about how much they love fall, and admittedly, there is a fuzzy, livable analog quality to a nice autumn day, like a good vintage tube-driven guitar amplifier, nice and clean and clear but with a warm singing edge.  But then . . . there is this election nonsense.  There's nothing more depressing than being reminded that you are surrounded by idiots. (4)

We must, as always, soldier on.

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There is, as always, the hand wringing over negative campaign advertising that surfaces this time of year.  And always, there follows the media analysis piece that informs us that, as much as we may claim to hate negative campaign advertising, it is by far the most effective form of political ad.

Okay, yes, we get it.  Or, wait . . . no we don't.

You see, negative campaigning is not the problem.  On one hand, just think if advertising became a dual of fools hugging their wives (husbands) and kids (pets) superimposed over gently waving American flags: no better, is it?  Think of all the ads you've seen for judgeships, which (theoretically, at least) aren't supposed to take any public positions.  Can you imagine a bigger waste of the airwaves?

Let's look at one particular "negative attack" ad that is running here, in Kentucky's 3rd.  Our beloved Chamber of Commerce (5) is running an ad against incumbent John Yarmuth, one of those cheap ads with stills of Yarmuth and Nancy Pelosi in gray scale zooming in from the background, over all kinds of damning text, the primary point (in HUGE RED BLOCK LETTERS) that Yarmuth votes with the evil witch Pelosi 91% OF THE TIME!  

An attack ad?  Sure it is.  The whole strategy of the Republican establishment this year is to paint everyone with the Pelosi/Obama brush (6).  But really, assuming the percentages are correct (I haven't done the math, but there's no reason to doubt it), it is a completely fair "attack".  Yarmuth is forthright about his support and and admiration of Pelosi.  The ad, though simplistic and jingoistic, is not inaccurate or misleading (7).  If you've got a beef, you don't have a beef with the Chamber, you've got a beef with the whole Obama/Pelosi mush-mouth syndrome.

Negative campaigning is essential when establishing a politician in the public eye. Judicious negative campaigning, combined with a positive agenda for governance, is more than okay, it is essential.  How else does one differentiate oneself?

On the other hand, there is a wrong way to do it.  For that, let's turn to Tea Party Wunderkind Rand Paul and . . . no, wait, it's not Rand Paul being the idiot here, it's his opponent Jack Conway.  Over the course of the campaign, Conway has run ads

  • harping on Paul's idea that Medicare needs a $2000 deductible, which is a perfectly legitimate attack on Paul;
  • claiming that Paul wants a 23% sales tax, which is most likely accurate, but then conveniently leaves out the fact that Paul wants this to replace income tax, so it is not exactly an added tax burden (8);
  • chiding Paul for his non-Kentucky roots, which smells of hillbilly xenophobia;
  • exploiting an anonymous and undocumented (but believable) rumor of a prank from his college years in which he supposedly abducted a woman and made here worship the "aqua buddha", which, true or not, is a totally irrelevant and bullshit move.
There is so much that Paul could be attacked on, yet Conway decided to make like the cartoon politician and drag out the most ridiculous dirt he could lay his hands on (9).  I've known right wing rich boys like Paul, and I would bet my next paycheck that he was a sanctimonious dope smoking douchebag . . . hell, I'm not so sure I didn't go to school with a couple fistfulls of his doppelgangers . . . but the idea that somehow all this equates to the idea that Rand Paul was involved in "alternative religion" (nope - he was too vacuous to even imagine it on that level) or that he was critiquing Christianity (nope - he's too cowardly, unlike his namesake) is completely ridiculous.  And, on top of that, dealing with such blatant character assassination (accurate or not) simply puts Paul into the role of victim-writ-large, which is exactly how the "dispossessed" white people that make up the Tea Party feel.

Way to go, Jack.  Make it even easier for the shouts of "Barabbas!" to rock the heavens.

See, the problem is not "negative campaigning", the problem is with manipulation, lies and distortion.  It is a very important distinction to make: we don't need a politics of politeness, where everyone avoids the obvious problems in favor of asserting that "I'm a nice guy (gal) and true American!" . . . but we do need a politics that holds politicians accountable for their words and actions and the interactions between the two.

Ah, accountability . . .

Here in the real world, the phrase "lesser of two evils" unfortunately has a disheartening relevance to it.  And so: vote for a lying asshole or vote for Rand Paul. That is the predicament in which we here in the Commonwealth find ourselves.

Oh well . . . won't be the first time I vote for an idiot, and it probably won't be the last.

Next time: your humble author STEPS to Juan Williams, to find out if he crosses to the other side of the street when he sees me coming in my Hoosier garb.
(1)  I'm being all ironical and shit.  But, since I'm not a good enough writer to convey irony without the aid of an emoticon, and since I'll only use emoticons WHEN I'M DEAD, I'll just have to resort to footnotes.  Are ironic hyperlinks too esoteric?  ; )
(2)  Fort Knox is on fire.  I've heard it was someone is Muslim garb.
(3)  It was over 80 degrees today.  The 24th of October, and it was over 80 degrees.  And there was a hot wind.  Hot winds are rare enough around here during the summer, but October?  F@#k this shit, man.  And Fort Knox is on fire.  There are ashes falling down here.  It burns my throat.  And I've got a fever and a f@#king chest cold.  Just so you know (or miss my Facebook updates).
(4)  Not all of you, of course.  There are many human people.  But there are also the idiots.  Many, many, many, many, idiots.
(5)  Irony.  I don't love them.
(6)  Let's see, white woman, black man . . .
(7)  Actually, the Chamber really seems to be phoning it in on this one.  If you're going to pony up for a TV ad, make it stick . . . Yarmuth, though he votes along with the Democratic majority most of the time, is a fair pace to the left of the "liberal" Congressional Democrats.  It seems that the Chamber could have come up with an ad that announces in red block letters "EVEN MORE LIBERAL THAN OBAMA AND PELOSI!" and have plenty of sound bites to back it up.  And sure, Kentucky 3 is Louisville & Jefferson County, the only even remotely liberal area in Kentucky, but Republican toady Anne Northup managed to hold the seat for ten years before Yarmuth, so the seat is far from unassailable.
(8)  A sales tax is a big problem for the working class, but that's another discussion that has yet to take place & is a bit nuanced for a 30 second campaign spot.
(9)  Is it just me, or is that mainly a Southern thing?


Matt said...

love footnote six. the answer, of course, is black baby. thanks public enemy! (at least, i think that was in a public enemy song)

comfortstarr said...

Totally agree about the Conway ad. What dumbass came up with that?

Slightly related, this is a hilarious piece NPR did on the voiceover talent for these ads back in 2008.