Columns 2008

Finally some blessed silence

For just a moment there was blessed silence.  No one screaming at me, telling me what to think, who to vote for, how many felons were in our congressional delegation. For just a moment, it was safe to answer the phone because there wouldn’t be a robo call at the other end pretending to be a personal message. It wouldn’t be a poll asking questions that made your blood boil; questions like “Are you pro life?” Seriously, how do you answer no to that?

Usually, by the time I finished stewing over the telephone poll, I’d already be hearing another political commercial that had me swearing off TV and radio forever.  In fact, if any other argument needs to be made for public broadcasting, it should be this. It’s the one media outlet you can listen to during a campaign without being bombarded senselessly, painfully and unendingly with political ads.

This year seemed to be more obnoxious than most because someone apparently gave a bunch of idiots at the national Democratic Senatorial Committee, or whoever the heck they were, free rein to spend untold amounts of money on telling us how corrupt Ted Stevens and Don Young are. I can only assume that this being the first year the Democrats actually had money in eons, they went a bit overboard in spending it with no adult supervision. Because if even one adult had been paying attention, they would have perhaps gleaned the backlash building in Alaska over those ads. 

First of all, and this probably comes as a shock to no one, I was a strong proponent of the need for change in our congressional delegation. Sometimes retiring while you’re ahead, or at least not in jail, is the better part of valor. But given that once politicians have tasted power it is almost impossible to get them to voluntarily walk away from it, I was not surprised to see our current congressional delegation fighting to keep their seats. What I was surprised by was the hate and vitriol that seemed to fuel the ads that ran telling us of their many misdeeds.

I understand that Mark Begich and Ethan Berkowitz had no control over the organizations running those ads. Almost.  Because I think the reality is that if they truly were as appalled as most of us were by not only the tone of the ads but the sheer number, they might have found a way to make it known to the organizations running them that it wasn’t helping.  And trust me, by the weekend before the election, I was not the only person sitting in my living room watching TV and thinking that I was very close to voting for Steven and Young just to spite the people who were running those ads – especially when three or four of them aired in a row during a commercial break. It felt like I was being slimed and then slimed again, until all I wanted to do was lash out at the people who were sliming me.  Can you say, “Overkill?”

Begich and Berkowitz ran what were probably fairly positive campaigns when you consider the normal stench that arises from hard fought political contests. But they could do that because these outside organizations were pouring smut into our state and on to our airwaves. Believe it or not, most Alaskans knew that Ted Stevens was convicted, Don Young was under investigation and Africa is a continent. We are not idiots. But outsiders shoving that down our throats every time we dared to turn the TV or radio on became overwhelmingly insulting by the end of the campaign.  Maybe once or twice an hour would not have been bad. But sometimes those ads seemed to be the only thing on during the breaks and that angered a lot of us. We may not have been supporting Stevens or Young, but they were still ours and Alaskans aren’t famous for dealing well with that much interference from the outside…except, of course, when the interference comes with a government check.

Now we get to enjoy a little quiet unless Stevens wins and then resigns and then we have to have another campaign. But for just a moment there is…wait, what’s that I just heard. Oh no!  It’s a Christmas carol.