Thursday, November 8, 2012

The six billion dollar man

Good morning, America.
By now, we've elected a president.
At least, I hope so.
I'm writing this on Tuesday morning--election day--with the radio news recounting complicated voting processes in the blacked-out Northeast and all-too-familar irregularities reported elsewhere. But I'm hoping we got it done. I'm hoping we got it done right.
I'm glad it's over.
It's been a remarkably unpleasant election cycle, with an unceasing barrage of criticism, allegations, innuendo and outright nonsense.  It seems a shame that in a time and place when advanced communications can allow us to share information, ideas, hopes and beliefs, we, instead, choose to use those wondrous capabilities to spread negative thoughts, ill-founded slander and intentional disinformation.  The result?  Instead of being better informed, we are often more thoroughly confused, and generally less convinced either way.
That's a shame.
But, to me, the bigger shame is the way all that stuff is delivered and the cost of that delivery.
I'm talking about election reform.
Mostly, I'm talking about the money.
I find certain aspects of our election process, like the outmoded electoral college, the continuing threat of vote fraud, and the inexplicable ongoing struggle for universal voting rights outrageous, repugnant and downright demeaning to each and every citizen. But it is the amount of money that's been spent by each party and many candidates that truly amazes and frustrates me this year.
In an election year where the economy is a key issue for many, how can anyone possibly rally around a system that saw our two major-party candidates spend more than six billion dollars on their campaigns?
Six billion dollars.
That's $6,000,000,000, folks.
Nine zeros.
What for?
Across the country, Americans suffered through more than one million presidential TV spots, most of them negative, and many of them intentionally untrue and/or misleading. Even some of our local candidates got into the big-money action, with a reported 9.2 million dollars spent on the 17th congressional district race between Bobby Schilling and Cheri Bustos.
Here's what I think:
We're intelligent enough to figure things out on our own.
I continue to believe we're good and smart enough to make our decisions without being subjected to billions of dollars worth of bunk from people who often seem more interested in bullying us or frightening us into voting their way rather than simply telling the truth about who they are and what they believe in.  I think it's time for a new era of civility and frank discussion. I think there's got to be a better way to find out what our candidates and their parties truly believe in, instead of only hearing--over and over again--about what, and who, they're against.
But instead, the growing trend in this record-setting year has been to relentlessly try to pound us into some kind of submission via the airwaves, the internet and every other possible communications venue.
Six billion dollars. Can you imagine the good, valuable, important things that kind of money could be spent on?
According to data from the Federal Election Commission, that translates to over $30 spent every second during the election cycle by the Romney and Obama campaigns.
I think they oughta know better.
We should, too.

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