By Audrey Engel
‘Twas the night before the elections, and not a political ad could reason — at least it seemed that way.
As campaigns “turn out the vote” for the mid-term election on Nov. 2, reason and logic tend to fall out of favor. We no longer have the Lincoln-Douglas debates, running three hours at a stretch, but there are some benefits; we now have campaign mailings, all asking for your special contribution of “$25, $35, $50, $100, $250, $1,000 or more!”
This article is your guide to identifying the conundrums and fallacies common to this year’s political season. In particular, you should watch for the “nice guy fallacy,” the case of “40, 50 endorsements or more,” the “fundraising with a slant,” and the “inconsistency theories.”
He’s a nice guy
Most people can identify ad hominem attacks, mudslinging, and general name-calling. Still, what should we call the endorsements gloating over a warm, friendly candidate with a wonderful wife? They tell us nothing about the candidate’s political views and competence. Give us some substance, and let Han Solo be the nice guy.
40, 50 or more
Politicians these days are sold like products, by their name-brand associations. The name of the game may be making friends, but should we vote for a candidate simply because he can list a few dozen names on a flyer? Like the first fallacy, these ads assume that the long row of supporters must mean the candidate knows something good.
Fundraising with a slant
I received a survey this year —a pure, unbiased survey — asking if I could possibly approve of the rotten healthcare policies being forced through by a renegade Congress? Turning the page over, I found the fine print: we’d love to have your support (money)! Just send us your unique contribution of “$25, $35, $50, $100, $250, $1,000 or more.” Do these people want my opinion, my vote, or my money?
Have you ever noticed that “conservative” candidates like to rail against the pork-barrel spending in Congress? “The government is wasting billions and billions of dollars,” they say, “and we’re not getting our share!” And of course, always vote for the candidate who supports gun ownership; I’m sure his other policies are just as good.
What is truth?
I may sound cynical about campaigns and elections, but there are a few good candidates. I have a letter from a Political Action Committee, which supports a local candidate for circuit court judge. The PAC describes this candidate’s role as a deputy district attorney, the types of cases she has handled, and her hours of pro bono work. In my book, she has both competence and character.
The other candidates? I will vote for most of them anyway — in spite of their campaign ads. I realize that elections are a popularity contest intended to fill public offices. Still, couldn’t we have less emphasis on the popularity, and more on the office?
In the meantime, don’t forget to send in your own critical contribution of “$25, $35, $50, $100, $250….”