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SHREWSBURY – If you’re like me, election day can’t come soon enough. As an avid TV watcher, I can no longer stand the streams of commercials touting one political candidate or another. I remember someone posting on Facebook the other day that for the first time in the election cycle, 100% of the commercials in a given program were political ads. If that weren’t bad enough, the ads themselves are just so incredibly mean that it’s hard to imagine us emerging as a more civilized society when it’s all over.
I’m not sure who went negative first in this cycle. Actually, I think it started with the Republican Governors Council going after Tim Baker…but once it happened it was “gloves off.” As I’m sitting here typing, watching Good Morning America, I’m seeing them come through one after another. First was the ad suggesting that Congressional Candidate Jeff Perry stands around while children are molested by police. Next, the anti-Patrick ad that implies that the Governor wants welfare mothers to use their money to “buy booze and play slot machines.” Then lastly came the ridiculous anti-Polito ad that the Grossman people put out with the puppy. Each one seems to be worse, more mean, and less true than the one before.
The pattern of these commercials all seem to be identical….so much so that I wonder if they are all produced by the same person. First is the haunting music…with the photo of the candidate – always the single most unflattering photo ever taken, of course – talking about how this candidate is single-handedly responsible for everything from World War I to the Black Plague. Then the music changes to the happy, peppy music, and you see the best photo ever taken of “candidate 2″ where he (she) is skipping down the yellow brick road that leads to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that every citizen will get, if only this guy is elected.
Things at the local level don’t seem to be quite as bad….probably because the local candidates don’t have the funding to make all these silly commercials, and perhaps because they know that unlike the state-wide races, when it’s all over these guys all have to live in the same town. I suppose there’s something to be said for the latter. After all, regardless of who wins or who loses the Governors race, they probably aren’t going to be bumping into their opponent at a school bake sale.
As we think back to our founding fathers, I wonder if this is what they had in mind? If they had the power of mass media two hundred years ago, would they have resorted to this same level. The answer is that sadly, they probably would. For those history buffs out there, think about the heavily divisive election of Thomas Jefferson, as the nations third President. Opposed by Charles Pickney and Aaron Burr, they fought a campaign fraught with scathing commentary on both sides. When the election was held, the electoral college vote came out as a tie!! Under the rules of the new Constitution, it went to the House of Representatives to select the President. Alexander Hamilton, far too controversial to run for President himself, but widely respected in political circles, sealed his fate forever by writing letters of support for Jefferson, and going out of his way to oppose Aaron Burr, the man who would later come back and take his life in the now infamous duel on the New Jersey shore.
Ler us hope that we get through the election cycle without any of the Candidates challenging each other for a duel on the Boston Common. Let us get through this week, and, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, “join together to bind the nations wounds….to do all we can to achieve a lasting peace.”