If you want to know what’s wrong with our political system, look no further than last week’s runoff elections. My head is still spinning from all the supposed crimes against nature the various candidates (allegedly) committed.
Of course, campaign rhetoric these days is nearly always bad, but run-off rhetoric is apparently even worse. Perhaps, because two candidates from the same party can’t help but agree on 90 percent of the issues, they feel obligated to be especially vicious in regard to the other 10 percent.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the back-and-forth I observed between two candidates, who shall remain nameless, via robo-calls and mailers:
Candidate A: “My opponent is a liar.”
Candidate B: “No, you’re a liar.”
Candidate A: “Well, I’ve heard that you don’t love your mother.”
Candidate B: “Oh, yeah? Word is, you once micro-waved a kitty.”
Candidate A: “Ladies and gentlemen, my opponent is clearly the devil.”
Candidate B: “Folks, my opponent is worse than the devil. He’s a liberal!”
Candidate A: “Gasp!”
OK, I’ve exaggerated the actual charges. But not by much. And the thing is, when you actually fact-checked those charges — that this guy voted for tax hikes or that guy ran his company into the ground or the other guy once kissed Obama on the lips — they almost all turned out not to be true.
Yes, that’s right. Politicians were lying to us in order to get elected. Shocking, I know.
Unfortunately, the end result of playing fast and loose with the truth is usually that the person who gets elected is the most accomplished liar, the one who does the best job of getting us to believe the worst about his opponent. And then we act surprised when we wind up with a Congress (not to mention a White House) full of people who seem genetically predisposed to dissemble, prevaricate, and fabricate.
Not that this most recent election is anything new, mind you. It merely highlights what has long been the major flaw in our system: the fact that the people who get elected are the ones who most want, above all else, to get elected. Because in order to get elected, you have to be willing to say or do almost anything. And they do.
You also have to be willing to have almost anything said about you. What kind of person puts up with all the slander, all the mud-slinging, all the digging into his personal life and that of his family? To run for high office these days, you’d have to be either a little bit crazy or utterly obsessed with power. Once again, our elected “leaders” in Washington serve as Exhibit A.
I’m just glad the runoff is finally over. For the next couple of months, at least, when I get a phone call right as I’m sitting down to dinner, I’ll know it’s just a good, honest telemarketer.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and the author of “Family Man: The Art of Surviving Domestic Tranquility,” available at Books for Less and on Amazon. Email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @FamilyManRob.