Sunday, November 4, 2012

Politics (Yes, I'm Going THERE!)

I tend to eschew controversy here at Wicked Awesomology, but once in a while I need to touch the third rail.  This is a rare post about politics.  However, take heart: I am not advocating a particular candidate or issue.  I am skewering the process as it currently exists.

As I write this, the political election season is reaching full screech mode, with mere hours left before voting at the polls begins.  Here in Maine, we voters have a number of choices to make, including who we want as our president, our representatives in the U.S. House, one of our senators, as well as state legislators and whether we want gay marriage to be legalized in the state.  The presidential race and the gay marriage referendum have raised the election year hysteria here this year from its typical “hyperactive preschoolers in a room full of sugary snacks” level to a new high of “Richard Simmons on crack”.  Intense media coverage and immense amounts of cash flowing in from every special interest for advertising and “special consultants” has turned many normally-taciturn Mainers, present company included, into raving lunatics.

When possible, I try to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, and one way to do this is to at least attempt to extract some lessons learned from things that have sucked out loud.  What follows are the five things I have learned during the 2012 election cycle.

Outside Influences Are Kind Of Insulting

A lot, and I mean a whole lot, of the advertisements, events, etc. surrounding this year’s elections in Maine have been developed and paid for by interests from outside the state of Maine.  I am sure that this is not unique to those of you reading in other parts of the country or world.  Now I am not talking about local candidates and advocacy groups intentionally hiring people from elsewhere.  I am talking about outside groups that have come into jurisdictions entirely on their own and tried to influence voters to go with their point of view: Political Action Committees (PACs)  It’s almost as if the PACs are saying “Oh you poor stupid people, let us tell you how you are supposed to think.”  Anyone with even a third of a brain knows that it is nothing more than a bald-faced attempt to increase their own power in some way.  Even when one of these PACs is advocating for a candidate or position that I support, I still resent the hell out of their interference.
While I am sure that this type of outside influence rubs many people around the country the wrong way, it really, really, really doesn’t fly in a place with people as self-reliant as most Mainers.  It is not only possible this interference by PACs can backfire in Maine, it is likely.

Politics and Religion Are A Miserable Combination

Religion and politics just do NOT mix well at all, and I am saying this as someone who goes to church every Sunday and takes his faith seriously.  Every candidate holds varied positions on varied issues.  How on God’s green earth are we supposed to vote only for candidates who support the tenets of our particular faith?  Is it okay to vote for a candidate who is in favor of abortion and yet also pledges to protect programs that provide direct aid the poor and elderly?  What about someone whose policies decrease the level of government interference in our lives and private institutions (including religious ones), and yet at the potential cost of decreased access to healthcare or harm to the environment?  We are told to love our neighbors, and yet oppose gay marriage?  Religious leaders tell us it is our moral duty to vote, and to do so in concert with the faith we have been taught, and yet I am not aware of a single candidate for any political office who completely “lines up” with a given religion on every issue. Every candidate and most positions seem like a Catch-22 when viewed through the lens of religion.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

“He’s Worse Than I Am” Is A Lousy Strategy

The old saw “you attract more flies with honey than vinegar” has been around for such a long time because it is true.  And yet, the majority of political ads I have seen or heard this year have not been telling me what is right about a candidate or position, but instead what is wrong with the opposition.  It’s hard to deny that negative content tends to garner more attention, and the fact that it stokes the fires of fear among the less-informed is another point in favor of negative ads.  Fear is a powerful motivator.  However, if I were a politician or advocate for a side in a referendum, I would much rather want to win because the voters supported me, and not that they were merely voting against the opposition.  In other words, I would want voters to like me more than the other side, not hate me less than them.  Being the “lesser of two evils” is hardly a mandate.

Taking Politics Personally Is Pathetic And Sad

I have friends who are flaming liberals.  I have friends who are ultra-conservatives.  To say that I don’t entirely agree with either group of them would be a major understatement.  Nonetheless, they are my friends and I genuinely like them.  It’s okay if they think and vote differently than I do.  I find it terribly disturbing that so many people these days make political discourse into personal grudge matches, delighting in the prospect of bad things happening to people who don’t believe in the same political views that they do.  In my opinion, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, for example, are both decent men who love their countries and their families.  While I lean more toward the views of one than the other, I don’t for even a second think that the candidate with whom I do not align deserves to have anything bad happen to him or his supporters.  The politics of hate has always been with us, but it has become much more pronounced over the past twenty-five years or so, since the rise of talk radio and 24-hour cable news which give those views a platform. These media entities often do so under the cover of “free speech”, but it is more often simply a means to drive up ratings and to fill time. I saw it from the inside at the beginning of that era, when I was working in radio myself.

Getting "Out There" Counts For A Lot

If you really want to attract my attention to your position or candidate, do not have a robot call me on the phone.  Instead, get yourself out there so I can come to you.  Walk in a parade in my town.  Hold a “meet & greet” in the area.  Talk to my local newspaper, radio or TV station.  Respond personally to tweets or Facebook posts.  Show me your face, shake my hand and make it personal!  Those things are going to cause me to take you much more seriously than someone who hides behind a barrage of carefully scripted advertisements, brochures, signs, and debates.  I feel that this applies to all candidates and positions, but especially to incumbents who think they can take votes in certain places for granted.
          And above all, no matter how disgusted you are with all of it, please, please, a thousand times PLEASE go out to vote on November 6th!

            We now return you to our regular blog programming.


  1. I have not seen one candidate in person this year. With 24 hours to go, I don't know who I'll vote for in either this year. The better of poor choices is still a poor choice.

  2. Even though you say you don't write about politics too often, I think this is a very good post. Of course, that might be because I agree with everything you say. :) I have Christian friends on both sides and none of them can understand how the others can call themselves Christian. I saw a lot of hate-filled posts on FB from these people and I received reprimands from both sides for my naive attempts to moderate between them. I'm glad the election is over; the several weeks preceding it were very disenchanting. It's nice to find a voice of reason.