It is an accepted outcome that political campaigns tend to bring out the best and the worst in human behavior, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit or power. Political strategists focus on what works to sway voters, ignoring any potential ethical dilemmas along the way, as if all is fair game, no matter what the downside risk. The current presidential campaign, however, has reached new lows when it comes to abusing truth and integrity for the sake of political ambitions.
Both parties are expected to “shade” the facts to support their basic arguments, but when the political foes choose to “invent” the facts to augment the veracity of their extreme views, then one must cry “foul” until honesty returns. Our press corps has traditionally been the arbiter of what constitutes fair “spinning," but somewhere along the way, the vaunted “Fourth Estate” has been emasculated. Their focus has shifted. They appear more interested in giving equal time than in exhibiting any backbone when it comes to calling out deliberate attempts to mislead and outright lie to the electorate.
An obvious sign of desperation, however, has gripped the final days of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s push for power. Recent polls in nearly all “swing” states show President Obama with small leads going into Election Day on Tuesday. The response has been an “overdose” of misleading ads, replete with “lies, damn lies, and statistics," especially in Ohio, the consummate “swing state" that will more than likely determine the winning candidate for the next four years. Leveraging their prior commitment to never be dictated to by “fact-checkers," Romney’s minions have flooded the airways with “obfuscation” overdrive.
The most offensive ad purports that Chrysler plans to close Jeep manufacturing plants in Ohio, outsourcing countless jobs to China due to President Obama’s oppressive economic policies. Sounds like “hyped up” fear-mongering, especially when the entire message is untrue. The CEO of Chrysler, who rarely gets involved in political fisticuffs, has gone public decrying the ad as extremely false and misleading. The truth is that more investment and jobs are planned in Ohio Jeep manufacturing plants, not the other way around. Major newspapers have also trashed this latest attempt at voter manipulation, but Romney has refused to pull the ad or admit that he has crossed a line.
Another ad that was roundly criticized for similar falsehoods was one claiming that Obama had removed the work requirements for welfare. The ad was originally pulled due to demonstrative pushback, but it has been resurrected again for duty during these final hours of unfilled airtime. The truth is that Republican governors had requested “exemptions” so that local training programs could actually prepare unemployed workers for subsequent opportunities. Our president agreed to this bipartisan request, but his support of Republicans was twisted to instill more divisiveness.
Are these the only arenas for bashing the truth? Of course not! There is a full-court press to abuse any semblance of truthful advertising, including slanted views on “legitimate rape," tax reforms, energy policy, regulatory compliance, and coverage for pre-existing healthcare conditions. The devastation of Hurricane Sandy has also shed light on Romney’s prior commitment to dismantle FEMA and move its operations out to the states. What is his response now? He has chosen to avoid answering any questions on the topic, preferring to ignore continuous entreaties from the press.
Desperation is one thing, but is this behavior a sign of things to come? Is this the new face of the Republican Party? The wealthy among us, always having been outnumbered by the population at large, have had to resort to various kinds of “chicanery” to retain power and influence over legislative matters since the dawn of time. The evolution of democracy, however, has greatly diluted these prior efforts, but money has always been the “leveler” of this playing field. When the Supreme Court unleashed the ties that bound corporate campaign spending, all bets were off as far as new strategies were concerned.
Fear, hate, and anger became the weapons of choice to “hoodwink” the electorate, especially “low-information” voters. Using these weapons as coercive force to gain an advantage seems unusually close to the definition of “political terrorism” – “The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or the civilian population in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
The level of acrimony at recent Republican rallies is extremely palpable. No one makes any attempt to rein in these levels of anger and hatred, as if dividing the electorate further is actually a positive development. The present situation could easily lead to violence, but no one on the Right views their intentions as counter to the American ethic. Decades of hate-mongering from the likes ofand have produced closed minds that will never open to a more healthy way of thinking.
It also came as news this week that Republicans have chosen to repress information that runs counter to their stated beliefs. These actions were common during the Bush administration when men in “quiet rooms” decided to ignore the actual facts that would lead to the right course of action. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) had produced a report that reviewed economic data since 1945 and concluded that “the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth.” The key plank in Romney’s economic plan asserts just the opposite. Republican senators pressured the CRS in September to withdraw its report.
Is this the kind of America that we want? Do we really want a government that tramples on our right to know for the sake of high-moneyed interests? Will we submit to this modern form of “political terrorism”? Decision time is Tuesday, but the best advice comes, perhaps, from, an American philosopher, historian, and political critic. His simple words of wisdom are, “Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.” Lean Forward!
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