I deliberately waited to write a column about our recent political season until it was over. I didn’t do this out of fear of expressing my opinion on any given candidate or issue. I did it out of fear that my head would explode if I tried to write about the election before it was over.
There are some pretty astounding figures being tossed about over just how much was spent on various campaigns this political season. In the end, the results of the huge sums spent did little to actually enlighten the electorate.
Most of the money seems to have been spent to ratchet up the sound of political babble until your average citizen was careening through the months leading up to the election with their hands over their ears in a vain attempt to maintain some level of sanity until they could cast their ballot. And, to paraphrase Shakespeare, all this sound and fury was signifying nothing.
It’s not that there weren’t important issues to be decided. And it wasn’t that the candidates in most races both local and national didn’t offer dramatically differing views of how to address the problems we face. It just seems that what all that money bought was a whole lot of ads whose main theme was that the opponent was a dastardly scoundrel who would rape your spouse and sell your children into slavery at the first opportunity.
While I have no doubt that people like that do occasionally run for office, my experience over 35 years of voting is that most candidates are actually decent people who just have different ideas about what is best for this country and state and how we should go about achieving certain goals.
All of which goes towards explaining why I was found one day in the parking lot of my local home improvement emporium screaming at some poor young man who was signing up voters for Tony Knowles.
Now this young man seemed like a fine fellow. And it wasn’t that he was signing voters up for Knowles that caused the explosion. In fact, I applaud and encourage young people who want to get involved with political life in America. Their interest safeguards our democracy for the future. They are the next generation who will make it work.
But I had spent one day too many hitting the mute button on my TV and the off button on my radio. And I hadn’t had my latte yet. And I was just back from surgery and getting use to a new way of eating that didn’t apparently involve popcorn. So all in all, he caught me on a bad day.
Which is why I found myself screaming about how sick and tired I was of political ads that didn’t say what a candidate stood for as much as they implied, or outright stated, that their opponent was against god, motherhood and democracy. The ads didn’t so much tell me about the candidate whose campaign was paying for them as it tried to convince me that the opposition was clearly against Alaska’s best interest, against America’s best interest and very likely an extraterrestrial come to prepare the way for Darth Vader.
Those ads were nothing more than an appeal to the basest part of our nature. They catered to our lowest instincts. They did nothing to improve the national dialogue or make an argument for why one candidate’s ideas were better than another’s. And I was sick and tired of listening to them.
So that’s why there is a young man standing in the parking lot of a Lowe’s somewhere in South Anchorage with a stunned and frozen look on his face as though he’d seen the devil himself in all his horrifying glory. If you find him, take him gently by the arm, bring him to a warm place and make him some hot apple cider.
And in the next political season, could we at least consider the idea of civil dialogue in which all candidates admit upfront that their opponent is probably not part of a satanic cult, but is a decent human being who just has a different idea of how to get from here to there, and where there should be? Unless, of course, you have pictures of them in satanic dress sitting inside of a pentagram. Then all bets are off.