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November 1, 2006

Another Campaign About Nothing


In this final week before what are certain to be memorable midterm elections, Americans are being faced with a barrage of campaign ads, rhetoric and catchy bumper sticker statements such as “I deserve your vote because I care for your family.” You do? Oh my, how could I have ever considered voting for the other guy? I mean you’re right, he clearly does want to see me working for the oil industry for three dollars an hour while he and Karl Rove chew on my civil liberties all the while figuring out the best way to keep black people out of Ivy League universities!


On the whole, it has been a fairly depressing campaign season. Discussion of the issues, for the most part, was kissed goodbye very early on. There has been no debate on Social Security, free trade, government reform, technology, education, abortion and so on. Instead, candidates, particularly in the most competitive races, have relied overwhelmingly on attacking each other’s personal histories, slips of the tongue and campaign ads.


In the races where candidates are not attacking one another’s characters, they are going after affiliations. Democrats have been especially excited about tying everybody to President Bush, and have become obsessed with the idea that doing so would gain them the majority. “Look! Here is a picture of your incumbent Republican Senator with, gulp, your incumbent Republican President!”


Democratic challengers’ mailings have been filled with what they convinced themselves would be subtle innuendos about “this George Bush Congress” doing so and so. Most remarkable are the countless Democratic attack ads that expose Republicans for “voting with President Bush over 90 percent of the time.” Does it matter what they were voting for? Of course not! They could have been voting to put an end to the practice of feeding live toddlers to sumo wrestlers, but that would be irrelevant. All that matters is that they voted with that devil in the White House.


Some of the nastiest attacks could be seen in some of the most high-profile races. In Tennessee, for example, after news came out about Democratic senatorial candidate Harold Ford Jr. attending a Playboy party, a Republican campaign advertisement included a two-second clip of a girl saying that she met Ford at the party and then adding, “Harold, call me.”


One could theoretically make the argument that it is not, in fact, that big a deal for a candidate to attend a Playboy party. The claim could also be made that it is useless, mean and idiotic to use such an incident in a campaign ad. I might not agree with either of these two claims, but I would certainly respect them. But instead, Democrats decided to attack the ad as “racist” because the woman in question was white. Really? What would they say if the woman was black? That it was racist because the Republicans are reminding Tennesseans of Ford’s color?


In Missouri and Maryland, another form of victimization is being used. This time, however, it isn’t the race card being played, but the advantage of having an ill celebrity on your side. Michael J. Fox, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, has aired ads criticizing Republican candidates for their stance on stem cell research. In Missouri, Fox says, “Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope.” Of course no context is given, no mention of the difference between embryonic and adult stem cells is made. Senator Talent dances on the graves of dead Americans, discussion over.


In Virginia, senatorial candidate Jim Webb became competitive for the sole reason of Senator George Allen’s slip of the tongue, where he called an Indian-American Webb staffer “Macaca.” After extensive research, the media found out that “macaque” is a “type of monkey typically found in Asia and Africa” and a racial slur used sometimes in some parts of Europe. Sure enough, it became clear to the Webb campaign that Allen had looked up the term so he could use it on the man filming him for the exclusive purpose of capturing such mistakes on tape.


Instead of responding by reminding Virginians that unlike his opponent, he actually shares the conservative values and positions of his constituents, Allen decided to fight back by releasing sexually intense passages from Jim Webb’s novels. As a result, Allen’s razor thin lead in the polls has now disappeared.


All of this unfortunate behavior points to the fact that Americans have been robbed of the debate they deserved this campaign season. These midterm elections presented a great opportunity for citizens to elect politicians who will help improve the state of the union. But instead, we will get men who were elected because they have never accidentally used exotic racial slurs, or because they pledged to never attend a Playboy party, or even because they had never taken a picture with Mark Foley or President Bush. Regardless of who wins, it will be another disappointing cycle for the country.

© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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