BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
Each new election period we are again bombarded with political commercials. Some of these are OK. They tell information about the candidate and about his/her agenda for the office sought. But even the best made, the most ethical, and the most appropriate political commercials can be tiresome when repeated too often. Yet most of us bear with this, thinking it a necessary form of communication with voters in a democracy during this era. Of course, that may not speak too highly for the voters.
With the Republican Supreme Court giving corporations and the wealthy unlimited rights to make political contributions, watch out for a really nerve busting commercial media jam for election season this summer and fall. They will be legally trying to buy elections now.
Most of us are irritated and angered by attack commercials – more by some than others, of course, dependent on their level of viciousness and perhaps on our own bias. But anyone who really enjoys an attack commercial should question his/her own inner values for gentility and civility. If we really were a gentle and peaceful people, valuing civility, politeness, and self-control, then the candidates who run the most attack commercials would lose. Such does not appear to be the case.
If we really were a people who value honesty and integrity, any candidate who ran commercials with unfounded accusations, lies, distortions, or half-truths in attacking another would lose. Such does not appear to be the case.
So when those same candidates talk to us about traditional American values, Oklahoma values, Judeo-Christian values, integrity, honesty, truth, and similar values, then many of them must themselves be liars when they utter those words: “I approve of this commercial.”
Further, many among us believe much of candidate commercial advertising must at best be targeted toward the naïve, or at the worst just toward the plain dumb, ignorant, and gullible among us.
But surely our candidate who tells us that he/she believes in God, country, truth, decency, the American flag, motherhood, and apple pie, must be a good one, filled with great integrity, and fully prepared for whatever office he or she seeks? Good grief! But one might be led to think so, when listening to those commercials. When one observes the success of such candidates, one has major cause to question the intelligence of the voters.
Such values are highly desirable in any candidate for office, but taken alone these values, if they were present, would qualify a candidate for no office at all. Ability, knowledge, training, and experience count as well.
Then there are those candidates who tout their conservative values, often adding in patriotism, the founding fathers, freedom, Christian beliefs, the family, the right to carry guns, and other perceived values of the American people. But such conservatives often add to the mix their intent to cut taxes, to cut wasteful spending, to reduce the size of government, to reduce the deficit, and to stop immigrants and other free-loaders. Beware of all such, for they do not portend well for the average citizen.
We really need to question what is included in basic American values, in Judeo-Christian values, and if freedom also includes opportunity. A candidate who promises to cut taxes and improve public education is contradicting himself. A candidate who says he wants to reduce expenditures but save Social Security and Medicare is lying. A candidate says he has Judeo-Christian values but advocates actions which will cut off school lunches for the poor, shut down homes for mentally retarded, toss old people out of nursing homes on the sidewalk, and cut children’s protection is either dumb or a liar. A candidate who wants bridges and highways but doesn’t support new fuel taxes is a hypocrite.
Should we go on? Most of the federal budget is for the military and for the major entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. Of course, there are all those other “minor” things such as veterans programs, highways, law enforcement, food and medicine oversight, and subsidies for agriculture. Then there are billions in wasteful subsidies for big oil, big sugar, big banks, and big business in general. There are tax breaks for businesses, for the wealthy, and for those living on investments rather than earning taxable wages. Which of these do these tax cutters really propose to drop? Give us a list! Maybe we should look at the candidate’s donor list. Reckon?
The state budget is predominantly for public education. Do we not support good free schools for our children and good colleges within reach of all our youth? Do we believe in equal opportunity for all? Is that not an American value?
Then there are the other state services such as overcrowded prisons, the human services for elderly, abused children, orphans and the like, law enforcement, mental health, and highways and bridges. If we campaign to lower taxes, are we not campaigning against these public services being adequately provided? Let’s look again at those advertised “values.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if candidates could count on public support by commercials telling us how they were going to improve public services without claiming they are going to reduce revenues or cut expenditures at the same time? How about if they were honest and told us that improving our services would cost a little more money, and that it might be necessary to raise a tax, put in a new tax of some sort, or even just to cut some specific exemptions now being given to special interests.
That would be a different approach, all right. Unfortunately, we dumb voters have rejected it several times before.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer