Elections loom, and the Silly Season is full upon us. The spectre of the “informed voter” rises again.
Some voters are indeed conscientious in their collection and analysis of information, but even the most industrious voter’s pre-election research can be subverted in subtle ways. We face a deluge of false information, or alternatively, genuine but incomplete factual summaries. (It’s a problem Fox News viewers constantly face: turn off the TV, and they’re uninformed; leave it on, and they’re disinformed. )
Some candidates’ messages — post cards, TV and radio ads, yard signs — neglect to mention their party affiliations at all.
This should encourage us to forget about party ideologies, and just vote for the candidate with the strongest strategy for addressing important issues.
Ha-ha-ha! More likely, candidates are just embarrassed by their own parties. What’s more, most election messages don’t address issues at all; when they do, they rely on catch phrases.
Campaigns spend a lot to produce and distribute “yard signs.” Their purpose isn’t obscure: name recognition. It’s the same force that drives ad agencies to produce TV commercials universally derided as annoying. Our irritation is inconsequential when they’re imbedding their product’s name in our collective subconscious. On the other hand, images of American flags can sell anything.
Yard signs are ubiquitous. Too small to treat issues, many don’t even identify the office for which the candidate is running. Some just feature the name: “Maxwellstein” or the wordier “Vote Maxwellstein.”
If the ballot features candidates about whom the voter knows little, what tips the scale in favor of Maxwellstein is that his name seems familiar.
Campaign claims and promises can conceal hidden agendas, or woo the credulous with glittering generalities instead of meaningful specifics. Avoiding specifics during the campaign creates wiggle-room for the office-holder after the election.
There’s always a potential that once in office, a successful candidate might acquire new information that renders his campaign-trail promises ill-advised or counterproductive. Or situations might evolve in ways that weren’t anticipated by the campaign rhetoric. I’d welcome a person who can sensibly modify a position on the basis of new understanding, without worrying about accusations of “flip-flopping.”
Neither candidates nor voters can access a crystal ball. Our problem here is figuring whether the candidate would be willing to alter a promise after acquiring valid new evidence, or conversely, forsake his promises to drift on the political tides.
A candidate struggles to enhance his/her public image, or to create one when running as a “fresh new face.” But if you can’t lift yourself up, tear your opponent down.
I’ve seen some ads from a lady running for state Rep, ads which ignore the candidates’ issues or strategies. Her central message asserts that the “democratic” opponent, who is not identified by name (but I bet it’s Eber Phelps), possesses hard-won insights, and a great depth of practical experience negotiating Topeka’s Capitol Maze, having repeatedly been re-elected by grateful voters.
Well, that’s not quite the way she puts it. Her opponent has already spent a horrifying 18 years in politics, which makes him a damnable politician! Need she say more? Of course, she’s spent some years in politics herself, albeit the local variety. But “all politics is local,” right?
Does she provide a substantive reason to choose her over him?
I perused a Phelps flyer, pleased to encounter some genuinely thoughtful and positive comments for a change. Then I flipped the card to the front side, to confront — a close-up of a snarling wolf. Sigh. Maybe today’s politics rewards snarls more than smiles.
One ad claims that an opponent “spent his life suing police officers.” Really? That was his primary career choice? When asked how he makes his living, does he say “suing police officers”?
Another ad says that Laura Kelly voted to raise taxes on “hard-working Kansas families.” Are lazy Kansas families exempt from the tax bump? We can recognize a pandering politician when he slathers on gratuitous modifiers like a streetwalker applying mascara. Simply “America” becomes “this magnificent shining nation bought and paid for by patriots’ blood.”
Oh, right, that nation.
A Kelly response claims that Kobach is “already calling for cuts to Kansas schools.” Surely that assertion deserves an asterisk. For one thing, Kobach has publicly repudiated it: “Nuh-uh! I never used those specific words in that specific order.”
For an honest, forthright, transparent appeal to ignorance and paranoia, it’s hard to beat Kobach, though he has surely earned a beating of some sort, preferably facilitated by the cat with nine tails.
Flyer sez “When they come for our guns Kris Kobach will fight back.” Ignorance: nobody is “coming for” my guns. Nobody is even seriously proposing to come for my guns. Paranoia: who is “they”? The Democratic National Committee? The Mexicans?
Would-be despots from Nero to Trump have manufactured an outside “other” group blamed for our real or imagined woes, to scare the citizenry into compromising real freedoms.
How exactly would someone “come” for our guns? We have double-ought buckshot and bump-stocked AR-15’s. The government has tanks. I’d love to see Kobach striking a Tienanmen Square pose.
His flyer reveals how “they’d” go about it, e.g. by “strengthening the background check system,” and “raising the age limit for purchases of semi-automatic rifles.”
If those somewhat-less-than-draconian measures alarm you, best follow Ann Landers’ advice.
Jon Hauxwell, MD, is a retired family physician who grew up in Stockton and lives outside Hays.