This will be my third presidential election since I've been editor of the Mason County News. On a more personal note, this will be the ninth presidential election in which I've been eligible to vote.
I've been through Carter/Reagan all the way up to McCain/Obama. And I've voted in all of them.
Prior to the ones I voted in, I remember the elections of '68, '72 and '76. I don't remember watching the '60 and '64 elections too closely.
Once upon a time, conduct in the campaigns, by candidates and those around them, was polite and mannerly. People might disagree on politics; but, they didn't argue. Well, at least around here they didn't.
And then things changed.
Rather than being about the issues and the country, it became personal. We started voting for people based upon personality, real or contrived, and when you go for personality, issues start to fade. Who sweated more during the debates? Who had a bigger flag pin on his lapel? Who had the best looking family?
It may sound silly, but those are things we notice and use in forming our decisions to cast a ballot. How old or how young? How ethnic? How composed? If the initial image didn't seem to satisfy voters, we had a solution in image consultants who would craft an all new image that would appease the masses. If they weren't your pick yesterday, they might be tomorrow after the experts were finished recrafting them.
John F. Kennedy was the "young prince," all crisp seams, perfect family and patrician background. This to poor Richard Nixon's nervous tics and closed mannerisms. The truth was that Kennedy had several mistresses, a debilitating back condition, and black sheep in his family. Of course, when Nixon finally did take office several terms later, he turned out to be very much exactly what we had seen, so there's not always a lot to be said for total honesty!
In the last twenty years, it's the electorate, not so much the candidates, who have changed. Once was the time that we chided candidates for dirty campaigns; but, now it is we who forward on emails with no basis in fact that impugne the reputations of the candidates, their running mates and their families. It doesn't matter that it isn't true, we want everyone to see how "involved" we are, so we send LIES to everyone we know. We do the dirty campaigning for the candidates and they stand back, feigning shock and surprise, and keep their hands clean.
The attacks from the actual campaigns are based more on innuendo than direct criticism. If we imply that the candidate is too old, then we don't offend older voters. If we hint that the candidate is favoring minorities, maybe we can still get the minority vote for our candidate. Direct attacks might anger someone, so we just drop hints and spread rumors and hope that the voters will be too stupid to find out the truth.
The problem is, we allow ourselves to be just that: stupid. It's too much trouble and takes too much work to determine the truth, so we accept the lies and even help spread them. We vote party, without even asking if the party even truly represents us anymore. The internet offers every voter the opportunity to look closely at the voting record of every elected official and to answer the question, "What have you done for me?" Yet, we will believe campaign literature that is often full of contrivances and outright falsehoods.
In the end, we seem to have been getting the elected officials we deserved. If we're are unwilling to ignore the "static" and find the truth, we deserve exactly what we get.
It’s all just my opinion, but it’s what I wish would happen.