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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Why do our most important elections always turn out so nasty?

Not surprisingly, this year's presidential election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump has had its share of personal attacks and name-calling.  I knew it would happen, and so did you.  In fact, I can't remember the last major election in our country this didn't eventually end up in the gutter, and my memory of political involvement at one level or another stretches bsck to 1984 and President Ronald Reagan up against Democratic challenger, former Vice President Walter Mondale of Minnesota.  Why deos this happen?  Every election, both candidates begin their campaigns by publicly pledging to focus on the issues, and to run a clean, respectful and positive race.  Sometimes certain candidates are able to keep their pledge, as lomg as there is a Political Action Committee (PAC) on their side to sling the mud instead.  In fact, politicans are using PACS more and more to trash their opppnents, so they can have what is called, "plausible deniability".  Regardless, at the end of the day we seem cursed to suffer through hateful, cruel, invasive personal attacks as part of every important election.  If the citizens, the press, and the candidates all disavow this type of campaigning, then why deos it just seem to get worse all the time?

It doesn't take a microscope to uncover certain incriminating facts regarding this year's Presidential election.  Roughly three weeks ago, befroe the first Presidential Debate, polls showed Trump ahead in the battleground states of North Carolina, Florida and Ohio.  National polls showed the race a statistical tie, with the trend moving in Trump's favor.  Then we had our first debate.  Trimp began by focusing on job creation and the need to renegotiate certain trade agreements.  Sometime during the debate the moderator (not Hillary Clinton) introduced the issue of Trump's taxes.  Trump explained, as he has repeatedly to the same journalists, that he is in the middle of being audited, therefore he can't reelase his income taxes until the process is complete.  Trump's response probably made no difference.  The moderator had successfully imjected an issue in the debate which had nothing to do with jobs, the economy, terrorism, the Supreme Court, or the National Debt.  Later on, Trump was asked about comments he made twenty years prior regarding a contestant in one of his Miss Universe Pageants.  Since a video clip appeared to show Mr. Trump referring to this particular contestant and her weight,  the inferrence that Trump is a Bigot was introduced into the debate.  Again, nothing to do with foreign affairs, ISIS, or the minimum wage, put the perfect set-up for new personal attacks on Trump.

For at least a week, the media feasted on the story of Trump and the overweight Beauty Pageant contestant.  Once the second debate rolled around, another video clip starring Donald Trump somehow ended up on the desk of the Washington Post (actually, the tape was provided to the Post by NBC).  In this video clip, Trump and TV host Billy Bush can be heard having a conversation about women that was lewd and vulgar.  Neither men knew that they were being filmed/recorded at the time, so this video is a huge invasion of privacy, but who cares, right?  Trump quickly apologized, and tried to explain his language as an unfortunate and regrettable example of "locker room talk".  Of course, moderator Anderson Cooper had to bring it up in the second debate, and again, the controversy had nothing to do with those issues that the media identifed as being important to the electorate.  The media continues to push the narrative that the candidates want to avoid the important issues and would just as soon engage in personal attacks on each other. The reality is, the media is driving this bus, folks, and no one else is allowed behind the wheel.

Every expose or new controversy, whether it be an interview with one of the women who has accused former President Bill Clinton of sexual impropriety, or some absurd story claiming that Donald Trump never pays income tax, has been released and promoted by the media.  If the media wants to keep the candidates focused on the issues, then they should refuse to accept advertising money for political ads that don't focus on the issues.  They should only broadcast debates and policy speeches that exclusively focus on jobs, terrorism, education, and the twenty trillion dollar debt.  Its just another example of the hypocrisy from the entity that jnfluences our electoral process in a very disturbing way.  On more than one occasion, Donald Trump has been criticized for spending time defending himself from a personal accusation.  The press publicly scold Trump for not addressing the issues that "the American people care about".  So the media releases the personal attack, advertises related follow-up stories, disseminates the story on every news source, and then slams the candidate for not sticking to the issues!

I know, its emough to bring on a nasty headache.  But we must be aware of all the equities involved in our political process.  The media will always differ to a sexy, colorful, or embarrassing personal story about public figures, as opposed to some segment about foreign trade or the price of tea in China.  They are convinced that the American public would prefer to hear about both candidate's dirty laundry, even if we are in the midst of a Presidential election.  The press is basically omnipotent in our society, because the oversight for the media is the media.  Folks have been wasting their breath for years, screaming about the obvious leftist bias in the American media (how about those even-handed questions from the debate moderators), and the problem just seems to get worse.  People talk about getting religion out of schools and out of government; how about getting activist journalists and editors out of the media?  Journalists in 2016 are comvinced that they are the only ones smart enought to make important decisions, thats why editotials and political endorsements have become such an important part of today's fading print media.

Advice to the media/press: just report the details, and trust the American people to have the common sense, intelligence, and consideration to figure things out on their own.  We don't care who the editorial staff of the Houston Chronicle supports for President in 2016.  As for the debates, why not have an equal number of representatives from both parties agree on the questions the day of the debate.  I'm not alone when I say that I feel as if my party's nominee for the past two elections has been selected by the opposing team.  

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