We know who they are — and aren’t
There’s the Pollyanna-ish idea that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all.
The idea of constant kindness is a fanciful ideal at best, but utterly impractical. Sometimes hard truths need to be spoken.
And no time are those hard truths and unflinching realities more needed than during an election cycle. From county commissioner to commander in chief, any person who comes to the voters, asking for support and trust, must be examined closely.
Who is this person? What is their agenda? What are the values they hold most dear? Will they advocate and fight for me and mine?
Often, voters don’t have the time or savvy to dig up the answers to these questions, so the candidates attempt to “help” them find the answers. On television, over the radio, in newspapers, on billboards and through direct mailings, many of the candidates in this current election have reached out a helping hand to those they want to call constituents.
And they have helped us nigh unto death.
“Cannot trust …”
“Extreme agenda …”
“Say no …”
“Fraud, corruption, criminal conspiracy …”
Over the last month, campaigns have been in full swing, slinging mud, urging the “no” vote for opponents, decrying incumbent’s votes and assassinating people’s character left to right.
In an unscientific sampling of political mailers sent to one Valencia County voter, 40 slick, glossy, full-color campaign fliers have arrived in her mailbox over the last four weeks.
Of those 40, 13 of them could be called positive, or at least neutral, in their content — a simple listing of a candidate’s accomplishments and experience, a request for a “yes” vote and done.
Half of the mailers have been what can only be referred to as negative, both in content and tone. They lambast incumbents for prior votes, and cast aspersions and make assumptions about how those running for the first time will comport themselves.
The remaining seven are a mix — on one side are glowing endorsements of a candidate, and literally on the flip-side are damning statements about his or her opponent.
Each bullet point is carefully footnoted and referenced, pointing to news articles, legislative committee reports and proposed and passed legislation.
Are the statements on these vitriol-filled mailers true? Yes. Are they accurate? Maybe.
What is missing from these snippets and excerpts is context. An elected official voting yes or no on a bill is a matter of public record and hard fact. The reason for the vote isn’t always recorded for posterity.
Looking through the 20 negative mailers, all of them are paid for by PACs, not individual candidates.
Do you know who belongs to these committees? Do they know you?
It is vital to examine our potential elected officials with a critical eye.
But we, as voters, need to remember that before they entered the meat grinder that is the political machine, these candidates, these people, were our friends, neighbors and family members first.
We know them. We go to church with them, see them at the grocery store, cross paths with them at high school football games.
We know who and what they are, and who and what they aren’t.
As the clock ticks down on the 2012 election, we need to take a step back from the grainy, unflattering pictures, brightly colored words promising dire consequences and vague reporting of facts, and remember who our candidates are.
They are one of us. We need to make up our own minds about the people we know and not be led down a fearful path by organizations throwing around large sums of money.