The scariest day of the year has finally arrived — Election Day.
We’ve endured months (actually years) of candidates casting foes as the secular equivalent of Satan while passing themselves off as the caped crusader, Bambi, the patron saint of families, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington all wrapped into one.
Advocates of ballot propositions approach us as if we are Hansel and Gretel working to lure our votes for their half-baked versions of reform by promising us a lifetime of Goody Gumdrops.
Today is when we give candidates, as well as the backers and foes of initiatives, the candy that they crave in the form of our votes.
Then we sit back and see whether all of the campaign rhetoric of those that win was either a trick or a treat.
And just like Halloween, a growing number of people refuse to participate in the door-to-door shakedown for votes opting to not cast ballots. It’s even easier not to do than simply keeping your house dark, porch light turned off and drapes drawn on Halloween to avoid trick or treaters.
Voter turnout keeps shrinking despite efforts to make it easier to do so. In some cases, upwards of 80 percent of people who do end up voting don’t even bother to inconvenience themselves to participate in the time honored civic act of traveling to a polling place and casting a ballot. All they just do is mail in their ballot.
So what is turning people off?
Politicians that lie? They’ve been doing that since the beginning of time. Politicians that don’t follow the letter of the law, such as with bond measures and ballot initiatives that past constitutional muster such as with the high-speed rail bond? Zealots who believe the ends justify the means so its OK to ignore voter approved terms that have been around since Julius Caesar.
So what is it?
You’ll get a clue if you listen to TV coverage or click on the Internet political blogs once the polls close tonight.
The biggest topic of conversation in many cases is the next election. It’s not about how those elected will govern as a group. It’s about who are the leading candidates for 2016.
Party animals — along with the hired guns of special interest groups spanning the rainbow from unions and corporations to environmentalists and others — never give it a rest.
They go at it 24/7. We’re lucky if they call a truce for Christmas.
Against such an onslaught, it is easy to get weary and tired of the process even though it is at your own detriment to do so.
Answering the door to trick or treaters asking for candy would fall into disfavor fairly quick if it happened 365 days a year instead of just on Halloween.
Yes, political discourse is the backbone of American life. But there is a huge difference between political discourse and campaign mode.
Political discourse is an exchange and debate of ideas. Campaigning is not.
Campaigning is about winning elections. Campaigns are designed neither to educate nor persuade. They are all about dealing with your fears and apprehensions. Perhaps they once were about education and persuasion back in the days when oratories and debates not limited to 30 minutes or an hour were the rule and not the rare exception. Everything is now reduced to sound bites or catchy slogans. Smear campaigns are nothing new. Ask American candidates back in the 1790s. What is fairly new are entire campaigns being built around slinging mud. Lyndon B. Johnson and Barry Goldwater were light years apart in political views and convictions. And even though LBJ invented the modern political hit TV commercial with his flower blossoming into a mushroom cloud, both men managed to work together even if there wasn’t a warm, fuzzy feeling between them.
Now after someone is sliced and diced for two to four years before getting elected, it is real difficult for them to trust the opposition and work toward compromises, especially if 15 minutes after the final votes are tabulated the buzz saw is revved up again. Politicians are human. They aren’t saints.
We no longer have campaign cycles. Campaigns are now run in perpetuity.
There is no longer a time when governing comes first.
Republicans like to blame the Democrats for this and the Democrats the Republicans.
Both are to blame.
And as long as people can make a living fanning the flames for parties and candidates with no break in between election cycles, the political carnage will continue.
Don’t even try to blame the Internet for this one.
The blame lies squarely with men and women who are so self-righteous that they justify winning at all costs. The ends justify the means for them no matter what the cost even if it is ultimately paid in the form of not being able to govern.
Mr. Smith no longer makes it to Washington.
Instead, it’s more like Mr. Hannibal Lector goes to Washington.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.