Lies, Damn Lies, and Politicians!
By Patrick F. Cannon
I’ve often complained that one’s choice on election day in many areas of Illinois is quite limited, particularly for primary elections. You might be asked to “vote for five” candidates for Commissioner of Alley Beautification, only to discover that only five candidates appear on the ballot. Or you’ll discover that many worthies are running unopposed.
Even in cases where there is a contest, if the incumbent does little or no advertising, it’s a good bet he or she will find favor with the voters. This is the case in the Illinois 7th Congressional District (one of the more gerrymandered districts in the USA), where incumbent Danny Davis has spent very little to defend an office he’s held for 26 years. His main opponent in the upcoming primary, Kina Collins, hasn’t spent much money either, no doubt because she doesn’t have any. So, even though we often don’t have much choice in some of our elections, at least we don’t have to put up with the endless commercials that feature in races where there is actual competition.
But if there is a contest, and the candidates have some dough, the negative commercials will clog the airwaves right up to and even on election day. If the commercials were actually accurate, the subjects should be before a judge and jury, not the voters. It’s hard to believe that anyone would vote for these charlatans and felons! Take the contest for the Democratic nomination for Illinois Secretary of State.
As Illinoisans will know, 87-year-old Jesse White is throwing in the towel after only 23 years on the job. Hankering after this job-rich office are former State Treasure Alexi Giannoulias and current Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia. (Let’s call them Alexi and Anna, so I won’t have to keep typing the last names.) Some of Alexi’s commercials show him playing basketball (he once played professionally in Europe) with little kids. He also wants you to know he used to play pickup games with former President Obama. Positive stuff this. But other commercials supporting him paint Anna as being investigated for trying to throw business to her lobbyist husband. Alexi doesn’t appear in these commercials, presumably because he’s too busy buying ice cream for the little kiddies.
Anna does appear in commercials that, on the flimsiest of evidence, infer that Alexi once said something nice about a Republican who supports Donald Trump; and that he must be pro-life for a similar reason. Of course, Alexi has always professed disdain for Trump; and has, as a good Democrat, been solidly pro-choice. But you have to give Anna credit – she’s actually willing to stare at the camera and shamelessly lie with a straight face.
Then we have the race for the Republican nomination for Illinois governor. The two main contenders for the Republican nomination are former prosecutor and current Aurora mayor Richard Irwin; and farmer and legislator Darren Bailey. Irwin has benefited from the support of Illinois’ richest man, Ken Griffin, who has pumped some $45 million into his campaign. Interestingly, the Democratic Party has actually paid for commercials that oppose Irvin and support Darren Bailey. Apparently, they think Governor Pritzker, who is essentially unopposed in the primary, would have a better chance of re-election in November if opposed by Bailey.
Recent polls suggest that Democrat money may have had an impact, since Bailey now leads Irwin. My theory is that negative commercials have convinced Republican voters that Irwin thinks – as one commercial states – that Trump is an “idiot.” Bailey’s commercials show he and his wife smilingly posing with Trump at some fund raiser. My guess is that most downstate Republicans still revere Trump, who, by the way, is no idiot. But he is a lying, dishonest, malevolent narcissist.
I have the impression that intelligent voters largely ignore the more negative and dishonest ads. There was a time when reporters confronted candidates about the biggest whoppers, which were typically sponsored by political action committees (PACs), which legally must have no direct relationship with the candidates they support. This enabled (and enables) candidates to claim they have no control over the ads. Notice, however, that they never disavow them, which they could easily do.
Students of history will know that this kind of negative campaigning is nothing new, just more intrusive in our daily lives. You might want to check the Thomas Jefferson/John Adams campaign of 1800 to see how it was done in the “good old days.” Jefferson’s agents even spread the rumor that Adams was a hermaphrodite! How’s that for negative campaigning?
Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon