Petey Did it Too
By Patrick F. Cannon
As children, many of us were faced with parents who caught us in a lie or some other transgression. A common response might have been: “Petey did it too!” Whereupon, most parents would have responded: “Just because Petey did it doesn’t make it right.”
While you might not have looked at it that way at the time, it was an early moral lesson. Then, as now, we are responsible for our own moral choices. So are politicians who justify their behavior by mouthing their own version of “Petey did it too.” The concept is still the same: your immoral act is your own responsibility, regardless of what your opponent does or says.
We’ve all seen the political commercials that associate the opposing candidate with every (presumed) outrage of his or her political party, followed by the opponent’s statement, “I’m Joe Blow and I approve this message.” By doing so, Joe has committed an immoral act. Let me repeat that, so there is no misunderstanding: Joe Blow has committed an immoral act.
Then, of course, we have the commercials produced by the PACS (political action committees); they tend to be even worse. But rarely so horrible that the candidates they support actually disavow them. Typically, they simply say they aren’t responsible for them, and let it go at that. When was the last time you heard a candidate actually call a PAC out and tell them to stop? Please let me know. I’ll cherish the moment!
There is an extensive apparatus behind these negative ads. Over the years, a new profession has reared its ugly head, whose practitioners I would call political gunfighters. Instead of “have gun, will travel,” there motto is “anything to win.” What they do is largely amoral. They go from election to election, from candidate to candidate. While most specialize in one party or another, quite a few are happy to work for anyone who pays them. Fact checkers don’t bother them, because they aren’t interested in facts, only impressions. They are creative liars, but liars nonetheless. Did I say “amoral?” Immoral is more accurate.
A good example is a recent ad that seeks to associate Illinois governor Bruce Rauner and, by extension, Illinois Republicans with Donald Trump, who Rauner has consistently refused to endorse. It uses a statement made by the governor during the primary season when there were still numerous Republican candidates. At the time, Rauner refused to endorse any of them, simply saying he would support the party’s nominee. His comment is repeated over and over in the ad, following a series of appalling remarks by Trump.
The ads, according to the PAC that prepared and paid for them, are meant to counter what they say are negative ads about House Speaker Michael Madigan by Rauner’s forces. You know, “Petey did it too.”
Faced with a political process that has become increasing immoral, what can we do? Frankly, with the way candidates are now chosen, very little. Let’s look at the way political parties choose their candidate. Whether it’s by primary, caucus or some other “democratic” method, the system encourages all and sundry to dream of becoming president. The political gunfighters are only too happy to encourage their dreams and take their money.
This year, at the end of a grueling and expensive process, the “democratic” process produced two candidates no one seems to like. Far better, it seems to me, if the process stayed within the state and national committees of the respective parties. It would eventually become clear which candidates had the best qualifications and most support, with the final decision left to the delegates at the national convention (who would not be bound to any particular candidate). With such a system, it’s hard to imagine that Trump or Clinton would have been the choices.
Keep in mind that the primary systems are not enshrined in the Constitution or any law. They are the construct of the party’s themselves. It’s time they admitted their mistake. If they did, it would remove vast sums of money from the process, much of which goes to the gunslingers and their accomplices. To be sure, it would cause a temporary spike in the unemployment rolls, but perhaps some of the savings could be set aside for a retraining program. I would suggest “How to Lead an Ethical Life” as a prerequisite.
Copyright 2106, Patrick F. Cannon