The Childishness of Presidential Election 2012

In early August the Presidential election slipped to a new low. It began when Barack Obama said, “He’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse — it’s Romney-hood.”

Romney countered by saying, “We’ve been watching the president say a lot of things about me and about my policies. They’re just not right. If I were to coin a term it would be ‘Obamaloney.’ He’s serving up a dish which is just simply in contradiction of the truth.”

It’s not bad enough that either man made such silly statements, I find it worse that the statements have become major news stories. A search on Google News showed over 36,000 results for “Romneyhood” and roughly 4,000 results for “Obamaloney.”

This is the most childish Presidential election I can remember, but the mudslinging is not as bad as it’s been in the past. I recall learning of some fairly low-brow elections from the 1800’s, mainly the 1884 election between Grover Cleveland and James G. Blaine. While the attacks were fairly childish, in my opinion, they were put together much more eloquently and in a way that sounded intelligent. The Cleveland campaign put together a poem referencing Blaine’s involvement in unethical business deals with the railroad industry and his behavior after they were exposed. “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, The Continental Liar from the State of Maine.” The Blaine campaign responded with an equally childish poem “Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha.” This poem reminded voters that Cleveland was alleged to have fathered a child out of wedlock.

In 2004 Walter Shapiro of USA Today wrote of the mudslinging in the 1988 campaign, “George H.W. Bush benefited politically from an explosive independent ad that featured Willie Horton, a black rapist released from prison under a furlough program championed by his Democratic rival, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. The coded message in that vicious commercial, which used a photograph to highlight Horton’s race, directly played on white fears of crime.
Such racist scare tactics are as unlikely today…”

While I’m not aware of any racist scare tactics, scare tactics are alive this election season, as well. Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC, released an attack ad – which has not actually aired and owes its notoriety to media coverage – effectively blaming Mitt Romney for the cancer death of a laid-off steelworker’s wife. The ad features Joe Soptic, who lost his job and his health benefits after Romney’s Bain Capital closed the GST Steel plant in Kansas City, Kansas in 2001. What the ad fails to mention is that Soptic’s wife had health insurance through her job until she quit in 2002 or 2003 due to an injury. The ad also fails to mention that she died in 2006, a full 5 years after he was laid-off. The ad is designed to paint Romney as a vulture-capitalist, but there is a subtle hint that universal health care, something promoted by both major party candidates, would have kept his wife alive.

Instead of getting pulled into the distraction that is Presidential election 2012, I encourage you to get involved at the State or local level. This could be as simple as writing a letter to the editor of your local paper in support of your favorite candidate or something more involved like lobbying your State Legislators to pass legislation reducing the size, scope and/or power of the government on at least one issue.