Michelle Teheux: My opponent is worse than I am
Everybody says they’re sick of negative campaigning, but candidates run these ads for one reason: They work.
Today, a very nice woman, who I hope will forgive me for writing this, mentioned how much she hates all the negative campaigning. Then she said she would not even consider voting for Gov. Patrick Quinn because Michelle Obama (of whom she is decidedly not a fan) campaigned for him.
The irony is that positive campaigning has backfired for someone who says she hates negative campaigning. Positive campaigning, unfortunately, isn’t as effective as the negative variety.
So, never mind what I would do if elected or re-elected. Let me tell you how horrible my opponent is!
There are, of course, people who run clean campaigns and don’t tear down their opponents. I don’t remember who any of them are because none of them ever got elected. Whose fault is this?
Yours. Mine. Pretty much everyone’s.
If we all voted conscientiously, paying attention to government workings consistently, we’d have good people in place. Instead, people pay little attention until election time, and then base their vote largely upon a handful of points they’ve picked up in election advertising, or from Internet memes.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I hosted a bunch of young musicians after a show. The talk turned to their dissatisfaction with politics and I asked if any of them voted. I don’t think any of them said yes. I told them that’s the problem.
Politicians are not going to try to win the hearts and minds of people who don’t vote. That is why issues important to the youth demographic get short shrift. It’s also why the moderate (and often disaffected and thus non-voting) middle gets left out. Both sides play to their rabid fringe. The Republicans, at a national level, are quick to brand any moderate a RINO. So who speaks for those of us who don’t want a hard-left or hard-right representative? Um, that would be nobody.
That explains why we blow endless smoke about things like abortion, gun control, welfare and other things about which most people have a strong, settled opinion, and don’t spend much time talking about the ordinary things government needs to pay attention to, like infrastructure improvement or tax code revisions or lots of other things that are necessary but complicated and don’t lend themselves to flashy ads or clever memes.
My daughter, who is about to enter grad school, is complaining about the massive student loan debt to which she’s about to add. There are lots of ways we could finance higher education in this country, but we’ve chosen to force young people to begin their adult lives owing the equivalent of a house.
This is insane, and harms both families and the economy in so many ways, but most politicians do not care because this is a problem that is affecting young people of the middle and lower classes, who largely do not vote.
If young people organized politically and made this a real issue, we’d find ways to make college more affordable. We could make it free or nearly so, as many countries do. We could offer more grants or much more favorable loan terms. But politicians will fight for the issues that are important to those who voted them into office. That’s not you, young people not born to wealthy parents.
But the politicians are really not the problem here. The problem is the citizens. Journalists often note that we get the government we deserve. Those who don’t vote, or who don’t inform themselves before voting, are the ones to blame.
We can complain about Citizens United, and how that has led to more corporate money flowing into campaign coffers than ever. It was a disastrous and wrong-headed ruling that has allowed an overwhelming flood of money to bolster negative campaigns.
But the very best fix for Citizens United would be United Citizens. We all get one vote, regardless of how rich or poor we are. If we based our votes on what we’ve seen in following the issues all year, we wouldn’t be taken in by advertisements that pander to ill-informed and gullible voters.
I know, I know. Easier just to stick with negative advertising.
Pekin Daily Times editor Michelle Teheux may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @michelleteheux.