Elections can be interesting and exciting

Published 11:24 am Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

There is a dark cloud looming.

It’s not the election, it’s the campaign.

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The telephone rang.

It’s difficult to nap through an election year.

I answered the landline. The caller said that he was a paid professional telemarketer who wanted to ask me some questions about the upcoming election. I’m not usually responsive to telephone solicitation, but because the latest polls showed that no one likes anyone, I decided to participate.

I suspected it was a call that was a push poll. A push poll is interactive marketing in which a caller attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. I suspected he wanted me to answer questions in a way his employer wanted them answered.

I thanked him for calling and asked him whom he was voting for. I told him that I was doing my own poll.

There was an awkward silence before the line went dead. The guy hung up on me. I didn’t blame him. I’m sure it’s difficult to avoid the wrath of those called.

I spoke in Alberta. Many people there commented on the length of our election campaigns. The Canadian campaigns are much shorter. The longest federal election campaign in Canadian history was the 1926 election that lasted 74 days. The 2011 campaign ended after 37 days.

Mark Twain said, “Never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.” He could have said the same thing about an election campaign.

Most of us find the election process interesting and exciting — to a point. Time and negative ads determine that point. Then the bird dogs become happy. It’s the grousing season.

Some of the negative campaigning isn’t as bad as it appears. It’s worse. It can’t be easy to ignore all the positive aspects of an opponent. Many of us grew up hearing the admonition, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Politics doesn’t operate on guilt as most of us do. Argument is good. Ridicule is bad. Negative campaigning is why livestock farmers make great politicians. They’re used to handling manure. Politicians and various political interest groups spend money that used to be ours producing ads that are so nasty, we don’t know whether to elect or indict.

My neighbor Crandall says that the only time politicians tell the truth is when they call each other liars. He also believes that nude voting should be allowed for those with no other identification.

Negative and lengthy campaigns move people — from being Democrats to Republicans to Independents to becoming indifferent. Some fall into the slough of despond — a state of depression named after a boggy place in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.

A Congressional candidate stopped to talk to my neighbor Still Bill. Still Bill can be curmudgeonly. He considers politicians to be people who are sworn in and cursed out. He thinks that elections aren’t about jobs, they’re about nut-jobs. Still Bill told the campaigner, “I wouldn’t vote for you if you were St. Peter himself.”

The politician replied, “If I were St. Peter, you couldn’t vote for me because you wouldn’t be in my district.”

When Adlai Stevenson ran for our highest office, he would have told Still Bill, “It’s not enough to have every intelligent person in the country voting for me. I need a majority.”

We know that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to hear “I told you so” forever, but politics aren’t easily understood. Einstein said, “You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” Try explaining the current election to your grandmother or a granddaughter. The scientific study of elections is called psephology. Cynics claim it’s a science that requires reading between the lies. The problem is that the facts don’t always match up with what we believe. That said, if we listen between the lines, we hear the candidates, who are wearing blame-retardant clothing, saying interesting things.

“I’m not going to lie to you. I’m going to lie to you.”

“If my opponent would stop being wrong, I wouldn’t have to be right.”

“My opponent is very clear about his position on taxes. He’s going to lie about it.”

Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Be someone of note and vote. The voter is a great teacher who can teach a politician a lesson.


Al Batt’s column appears every Wednesday and Sunday.