No, not "holiday" season, not yet. I'm talking about the season of political campaigns. By which I mean that it's the time when candidates tell us why their opponents suck. It's been a long time since we've really been told why to vote for someone, other than because "You don't want to vote for my opponent!"
My congressional representative is Sue Kelly (R-NY). While I often wish I were in Nita Lowey's district (D-NY), I reconsider: being here gives me an opportunity to vote against her. I've a list of reasons for that, most of which have to do with her party-line support of everything Bush. Perhaps the worst thing she's done was when she gave a speech before a sixth-grade class and told them that "Saddam Hussein is a bad man, and we have to take him out." Those were her words, as quoted in the Poughkeepsie Journal, and I was appalled that she would characterize going to war so callously before a bunch of twelve-year-old children.
But here I am, telling you why Sue Kelly sucks. That wasn't meant to be the point of this. The point is to have a look at the disingenuousness of a TV ad she has that blasts her Democratic opponent, John Hall. John Hall, says Ms Kelly, will raise your taxes!
As proof of this, she points out that Mr Hall wants to roll back the ill-advised "tax cuts" that the Bush administration had Congress pass. You can see by the adjective in the previous sentence that to me, this is a good thing to say about her opponent. But her tone is not a positive one. The inflection tells me that this is one reason that Mr Hall sucks.
She goes on to point out a couple of times when, as a county legislator, Mr Hall voted to raise property taxes and sales taxes. And here's where the disingenuousness comes in. Everyone who has served as a legislator for any length of time has had to raise taxes at one time or another. Every merchant has had to raise prices, every landlord has had to raise rents, and every legislator has had to raise taxes — or, alternatively, to cut social programs, because the money has to come from somewhere.
Candidates get away with this stuff because people let them — people believe them, without thinking about it. Sue Kelly says "John Hall will raise your taxes," it's accompanied by a graphic with a green arrow going up, and voters go to the kitchen for a snack and say, "Damn, I sure don't want my taxes raised. Better not vote for that guy." These negative ads are out there because they work, and they're safer than actually commiting to anything directly.
We have to stop them from working. We have to demand that candidates tell us what they will do not scare us with stories about what their opponents would do if they should be elected instead. Ask questions. Demand answers. Make them take stands on the issues.