Probably like most of you, I was sickened by the negative ads that all the candidates – Democrats and Republicans – ran this year. There were a few exceptions, but most of the candidates simply ran mud-slinging ads. They did not engage the issues. They did not talk about what they would do to improve this country. They ran away from journalists who might engage them in discussion longer than sound-bytes. I am disgusted by all of them. Journalists, too, are complaining that the candidates in Missouri refused to engage in anything more than “sound-byte” answers to their questions.
A colleague who is a historian sent me this clip. We may think mud-slinging is new, but it is not. Watch this short video about early 19th-century electoral language.
Wow! That’s some strong language.
So what’s the difference? This one strikes me first: Back then, people had to read these words in newspapers and other print sources. Today, they’re flooding the TV and radio airwaves. Thus, back then you had to be literate to see those 19th-century diatribes, whereas now they’re delivered in 30-second TV and radio ads.
Another of my colleagues tells of visiting with a young man from Germany. He’s an exchange student here. The family had the TV on, and a series of political ads ran. This young German man gawked at them in amazement, then asked, “What is this?” “Oh, political ads,” the family explained. He was gobsmacked. He said that in Germany, political ads don’t run on radio or TV. They can only run in newspapers. And journalists cover the elections.
Ya know what? I think I’d like to adopt that system.
Thirty second sound bytes have dumbed-down political discourse in this country beyond all imagining. I blame the politicians and their financial contributors for that.
But I also blame an ignorant populace that gets its “information” from those sound-bytes. And those ill-informed people have the right to vote, no matter how ill-informed or illiterate they are.
Of course, dear readers, I am not talking about you. I know many of you, and I know you study the issues prior to voting. I know you dig for answers.
But the ignorance and reactionary nature of the American populace amazes me. For instance, many seem to think we live in a direct democracy, where the majority rules. Of course, that’s not the system of government that was established in the Constitution. The framers intentionally created a republican form of government, in which the minority would be protected from a tyranny of the majority. I am amazed at how many people do not know that. I think the framers of our Constitution would be shocked and appalled.
I expect we will see the result of that ignorance in the election results tonight.