Election stakes too high for campaign rhetoric

As George Bailey asked in the classic "It's A Wonderful Life," "Don't you see what's happening here?" I do, but I am alarmed that increasing numbers of my fellow Americans do not or they choose not to see what's really going on around us today.

Political experts tell us that once we get past Labor Day, beyond the activities of summer, we really start paying attention to the political news, especially in an election year. Yet, too often, most people decide to opt out, not even bothering to vote. So far I am less encouraged this year.

If there ever was a chance to see ignorance on parade, it's at many political rallies where adoring supporters, selected to create nice politically correct backdrops, are eager to cheer on their candidate … no matter what he or she says. When the TV cameras are on them folks will applaud anything:

He said hello!

Yea!!! Hey, get me on YouTube or some TV reality show. I could be Famous!!!!

Think of when something tragic occurs and the president needs to address the situation at a same-day, previously scheduled event. It happened again after the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. this summer. Attendees who were so focused on being at the rally didn't bother to listen to what he was saying and started clapping at awkward moments when the horrible news was mentioned. Such reaction can be hard to control, but it's a reflection of today's culture. All surface, no substance, no listening. And politicians love to capitalize on it.

In the days after Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan to be his Republican running mate, I was fascinated to see the president's response to the decision. On the campaign trail—where he seems most comfortable—President Obama amped up the rhetoric about the pick. Prefacing his remarks with nice words about what a swell guy the congressman from Wisconsin is, the leader of the Free World then went into scare talk about how the Republicans want to end Medicare and oh, by the way, he's had to clean up the worst recession since the Great Depression. This has also been the longest post-recession recovery in about 70 years, but that's a pesky fact… and all on this president's watch.


Hopes for America
At an August fundraising event in Chicago, it appeared President Obama wandered off the teleprompter a bit to allow some core motivations to come through. With his earlier "you didn't build that" business comments as background, he went on about his hopes for America:

"The question in this election is which way do we go?" Obama asked, "Do we go forward towards a new vision of an America in which prosperity is shared? Or do we go backward to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place?"

There's the political dance. Assume everyday people aren't really up on the news and facts and say anything. Get them to agree on moving forward, not backward, saying yes instead of no. After all, no one wants to appear old fashioned or judgmental. So frame comments in a way that the cheering masses rah-rah it all, no matter what's really being said or what is actually going on. He continued to occasional applause:

"I believe we have to go forward," the president said. "I believe we have to keep working to create an America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, no matter who you love, you can make it here if you try. That's what's at stake in November. That is why I'm running for a second term as president of the United States of America!"

That's why?

All you have to do is "try" and you win, with guaranteed benefits? No matter what, just show some effort and "prosperity is shared"… or else? The message behind the words is this: We in government are infallible and will determine your future. And we'll get busy redistributing your prosperity whether you like it or not.


Beer and homework
A couple of days after the presidential comments, Paul Ryan went to the Iowa State Fair to stump for votes, finding strong support. Then the president made a surprise "me too" visit to the same fair where he talked not about his policies and record but about how everyone over 21 should get a beer and have fun at the fair. He's just a regular guy, you know. One man in the crowd asked Mr. Obama, "Are you paying for it?" after which excited Iowans started to chant "Four more beers!"

What a picture of where we are in America. The attitude is "Don't bother me with facts; all politicians are alike … so where's my free stuff?"

Don't you see what's happening here?

These are scary, challenging times. Electoral decisions have consequences. Often unchangeable events are set in motion, more judges are appointed and minds are numbed.

Are any of the candidates perfect? Of course not, they're human. But we must all be "in the game," not being frustrated about the choices and sitting home while the other side wins. It's not uncommon to see post-election stats like these: Only about 15 percent of those professing to be Christian voted. That's sad, yes, but in these times it's pathetic... even dangerous.

November's election could be the most important in our lifetime, and the time between now and then will fly by. It's time to avoid succumbing to political messages that only serve to confuse and deflect from crucial issues. So pay closer attention and be discerning, avoiding being manipulated by political distractions.

Let's get busy and do our homework.


Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 6 to 9 a.m. and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 4 p.m. Email: mark@marklarson.com.


Published, September 2012
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