This will be my one and only political post. I usually like to keep my opinions off the internet.
Today, however, I am going to make an exception. I will speak my peace and then sit on my hands (except to respond to your comments).
It has started in this country. The race for the next President of the United States is heating up. There are a ton of candidates running, too many to name here. Many don’t have a chance in you-know-where and there are a few that have already grabbed the spotlight, considered to be front-runners of their respective political party. Citizens of the U.S. vote in November of 2016. Between now and then, there will be an explosion of TV and radio media, along with the headache-inducing drone of endless negative ads meant to send us to our living hell until we vote for the right candidate.
In the meantime, I want to move to England. From a 2010 Chicago Tribune article:
In the 2008 (US) presidential race, the candidates spent a total of $1.7 billion, double what was spent in the 2004 race. In the U.K. election (2010), a spending cap of 20 million pounds, about $33 million, was imposed on each of the major parties. Of course, campaigns there are less expensive partly because of a ban on paid radio and TV advertising or any ads on matters of “political or industrial controversy.”
They have a ban on paid radio and TV advertising? Really? Why are we not doing this? Why do we leave our politicians to torture us for months and months on end? This 2010 U.K. election occurred after just one month of campaigning. One month. I realize that the United Kingdom, geographically, might fit into the State of Texas and candidates do not have to travel far to knock on the doors of their constituents, but I am still jealous.
There’s more, however, from CNN Politics that infers it may not be all honey and roses in British politics:
If politicians feel unloved in America, they should try Britain. Here, voters castigate politicians as liars on live television, tell pollsters by 10-1 margins that their leaders don’t care for the national interest and have descended into a corrosive countrywide funk challenging the very legitimacy of government.
Seriously, I’ve wanted to call U.S. politicians “liars” to their face many times, but instead I simply yell at the TV screen. Perhaps a few voters from the U.K. would like to weigh in on the political process in their country and if it’s any better than what we endure in the U.S.
Getting back to the media…
Last week was difficult for me. Another candidate threw his hat into the ring, a candidate that I will not vote for. Ever. Actually, there are three candidates I will not vote for. Ever. Each time they appear on the news, I feel the small hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I become angry. I yell at the TV screen and ultimately turn the channel. I fume for at least five minutes afterwards. Eventually, I calm down and realize it’s not worth the indigestion to get so fired up over a few politicians…until the next time they are on TV. Ugh.
The media loves a good story and they will embellish at will to get us fired up, especially certain cable and prime time networks that openly take political sides. I tuned into one of those networks about five years ago and with every show I watched, the angrier I became. “How dare they?” continually circled in my head, along with a few expletives and distasteful thoughts. One day, I had to turn it off for my own well-being and I haven’t been back since. This is how certain TV networks operate. Tell us what you believe we want to hear (like the politicians). Get us angry. Make us go out and vote for your party or candidate because the other candidate is a jerk and the other party is a bunch of morons and I am not a good person if I don’t vote the right way, for the right person. This is negative media politics, 24/7.
There are two things I would ask of U.S. voters for this presidential election. Turn off the TV and do your homework. Don’t let the negative ads or a cable TV show influence the way you vote. I understand that you have your personal political views, as do I, but sometimes our viewpoints get in the way of truth or of wanting to know the truth.
Alex Chrum, a self-professed non-partisan liberal, wrote:
We, as humans, seem to naturally default to those areas that we find comfort in—places of camaraderie, communion, self-affirmation and self-improvement. We try, as often as possible, to avoid situations that are harmful to our success, happiness and overall well-being. As a result, we tend to neglect those people and ideas that might seem threatening. It’s our “fight or flight” instinct. If you’re gay, chances are you aren’t going to actively seek out the company of violent homophobes. If you’re a person of color (any color, that is), you most likely won’t accept an open dinner invitation from a group of white supremacists. Similarly, rarely do we ever seek out stories and viewpoints that run contrary to our own.
Think about her words. We really don’t want to read or hear or discuss viewpoints that are not our own, let alone hang with people that have a different viewpoint. We listen to the spin doctors that are on our side. We set aside opportunities to learn about all political candidates and viewpoints because we have our hands glued firmly against our ears or eyes. We chastise those that don’t agree with us rather than having a rational, intelligent conversation with the opposition.
Do yourself a favor, dear voters, for the Presidential race, a Governor’s race, or for any political campaign now or in the future.
- Turn off the slanted cable and primetime networks and search out TV and internet sites that are a bit more unbiased. Try WikiNews, The Real News , Reuters , The Independent, The Economist , PBS, BBC or C-Span. Or any other news outlet that doesn’t cater to one side or the other. Listen or read with your eyes, ears and mind open.
- Use websites such as FactCheck.org, Votesmart.org, and Ontheissues.org to check all candidates and the issues, not only those that you oppose. Base your vote on fact rather than a negative ad that may or may not be true. Remember that some of those ads are paid for by special interest groups that simply have the goal of getting their candidate elected. Look for the truth, not an angry fairy tale.
- Have calm conversations with those on the other side of the political fence. Be respectful. Listen to what they have to say about their party and candidate. You don’t have to agree or change your vote, simply hear the other side without an enraged comment or the wagging of a fuming finger.
- Career politicians want to get elected and re-elected. That’s their job. Keep this in the back of your mind as they kiss the babies and promise not to raise taxes as you line up at the polls. Know their agenda and their political history. Has your potential candidate kept his or her promises in the past?
- Don’t spew political vitriol or throw contempt around on Facebook, WordPress, political blogs, or at your neighbor. It’s not becoming and it doesn’t make anyone change their mind. It only rolls downhill into a big ball of hateful crap. You may think the blogger/commenter/neighbor is a dick, but your hate-filled words make you a dick.
- Finally, go out and VOTE. It is your right (and some say duty) in this democratic country. Exercise the knowledge that you have obtained. Vote for the person you believe will do the best job not only for you, but also for the Independent, Republican, Democratic and Socialist neighbors in your suburb. Your vote does count.
So there it is. I have spoken my peace about the 2016 Presidential election. My hope is that voters will consider some of what I have said – that doing a little research, checking facts on all candidates, having a productive conversation over opposing viewpoints, and being respectful of all voters will have a positive effect on the way we vote, who we vote for, and the overall outcome of the election.
In conclusion, I must take my own advice. Crazy cat lady memes and cute baby photos on Facebook are not as important as a knowledgeable vote. Hold me to that, please.
And keep your finger on the mute button…in case one of those negative ads tries to send you to hell and back.
Have a happy, insightful and peaceful Presidential Race, America!
PS: Dear readers, I encourage your comments and any insights you may have in uncovering true facts about political candidates. I only ask that you keep it clean and respectful. Thank you.