But He’s Got a Great Personality…

In the final stretch of the midterm campaign season, no one can
escape the onslaught of ads calling opponents liars, suggesting we
break-up with representatives (registration
required), or even accusing them of
billing taxpayers for ‘adult fantasy’ phone
(as evidenced by a hotel bill with a $1.25 misdial
charge). As if there aren’t already enough
challenges to fair elections, this
conflation of personal history or charisma with a candidate’s
political stances is helping to keep voters from being informed
about the real issues — the ones on policies — when they cast
their ballots.

As Jon Margolis makes clear in
High Country News, no one has a perfect
record. Looking at the ads from a contentious race in
northeastern Colorado, he notes that one candidate has filed for
bankruptcy, while her opponent rear-ended a car and then left
the scene. But focusing on petty personal quandaries only
detracts from the real issues at stake: the policies that will
eventually affect voter’s lives.

Margolis lays some of the blame on ‘political journalists who
dislike politics, and who therefore encourage voters to choose the
contender ‘you’d rather have a beer with.” But he says it’s more
than an accident of bad reporting. Politicians looking for a way to
sidetrack voters — and the other candidate — don’t hesitate to
start the ball of distraction rolling. Margolis quotes a memo from
Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole (R) that reads, ‘When people are looking at
national issues that are not breaking our way, what you want to do
is focus on your opponent.’ That kind of campaigning puts the less
organized, less endowed party (yes, that would be the Democrats) at
a disadvantage. They don’t have the surplus resources to dig up the
dirt, spread it around, and defend themselves after the character
assassination begins. Furthermore, Margolis argues, character-based
voting is just plain pointless. ‘You are never, ever going to have
a beer with that candidate,’ he writes. ‘Ever.’

But what if you did? The political pranksters at the
Onion do a great job of laying that fantasy to rest in the
November 2005 piece, ‘Long-Awaited Beer With Bush Really Awkward,
Voter Reports.’ The article details a fictional
pub rendezvous between working-class Pennsylvanian Chris Reinard
and George W. Bush. After attempting to buy Bush a Bud (‘I
completely forgot he stopped drinking’), Reinard finds that he and
the affable politician live in vastly different realities. Even
fishing talk cannot alleviate the strain of the meeting. ”I felt
that we finally made a connection,’ Reinard said. ‘But then he
started telling me about this one time he was on a yacht with some
Arab prince and they spent four hours landing a sailfish.” Perhaps
the only thing that can crack a politician’s carefully crafted
persona is an invincible sense of humor.

Go there >>
In Politics, It’s Not About Who You Want to Drink a
Beer With

Go there too >>
Long-Awaited Beer With Bush Really Awkward, Voter

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