September 19, 2007 12:16 PM
I attended a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton at a swanky, high-powered Beverly Hills home last Friday. She’s impressive and passionate about what she wants to do for the country. I think she is going to surprise a lot of people as the election cycle progresses . . .
As the primary race comes into focus, a number of thoughts come to mind:
WHY DO WE LET THEM LIE AND CHEAT? Nothing really came of the Swift Boat scandal that improperly smeared the character of John Kerry in the last election cycle. I never was a huge Kerry fan (and wonder if he could have carried the day anyway). But this and plenty of other examples beg the question of whether we should hold speech during elections to a higher standard than other speech?
In the interest of fairness, if you (or someone you authorize) knowingly disseminates false information to undermine a political opponent, I say you should be unceremoniously removed from office – and have charges pressed against you. Just the specter of such a threat might slow down the kinds of things we have seen in the past.
Another possibility would be to self-regulate. There could be a panel of retired statesmen (and women) who review all potential television, radio and print advertising before it goes out (like the Motion Picture Association of America) and give the ad a grade for veracity – that must be disclosed at the top of each spot and in each print ad.
No candidate will want to put out a message labeled “L” for lies.
WHY CAN’T WE TOUCH THE MONEY PROBLEM? It seems like just about everyone agrees that money is a problem in our elections. The people who benefit from the status quo have developed a clever response to divert our attention. They compare the amount spent on a national election to other big-ticket items like movie budgets or toothpaste bought each year. Obviously that has nothing to do with the issue, or these same people would be advocating big budgets for public funding of elections – which would insure integrity and enough resources to guarantee fair elections.
The Brits simply don’t allow television advertising in elections – and the experience is entirely different. The candidates actually talk about the issues and know they will be judged based on those beliefs. The U.K. is certainly not immune from election issues, but the process is much more sophisticated without the TV. Campaigns driven by 30- or 60-second commercial spots cater to that medium – which encourages negative attacks, partial information, innuendo and outright deception. And, unfortunately, we see those tactics work time and time again, to the disillusionment of some great potential leaders that never made it into office.
WE’VE GIVEN UP ON A LOT OF VOTERS: The debates are happening on cable/satellite television. Isn’t that a problem? If you do not have the $50 to $100 a month to pay a cable or satellite provider, you are simply being left out of the process. True, many of those people do not participate because they are too busy trying to survive the day-to-day challenges of life, feed their families, etc. But I am troubled by whole segments of our society being cut off from our national political dialogues. In a time when there were three television networks, each election had various times that the only thing you could watch if you wanted to watch television was the debates. Why not extend that to all broadcasts in the country? Then, the burden would not fall only on the Big Four networks.
How about the last two debates of the primary and the last three of the general with a “must broadcast” mandate? All broadcasters (TV and radio) must simulcast the debate. With such a rule, we might start talking about candidates and issues at the water cooler again.
WHAT CAN I DO: The above are all big changes. The little things make a big difference in the long run as well. It is time to start asking people around you if they plan to vote – if they are registered to vote – what they think about the candidates and the issues. I suggest shame as a great source of inspiration to get people to the polls. A lot of people will vote if they know someone else is paying attention. I suggest we pay attention.