Be on the lookout for these political tactics

Posted: November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

Wow! Election Day is finally here. I’m going to warn you about some things to be wary of when you vote tomorrow.
But first, let me make one thing very clear. This is not a political blog.

The reason I’m so emphatic on that score is because I recently completed a long stint as a newspaper reporter, covering a political beat.

I’m all for free speech and open discussion of the important issues. Even so, the constant bellicosity that seems to define politics these days (and has always defined it, if we’re going to be honest) got wearying after a while. Around election time, it can get particularly shrill.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. In fact, I believe it’s necessary on some level. I just personally feel like taking a break from it.

So how about this? The subject of this particular blog entry may be political. But it’s not partisan. This doesn’t apply to any particular candidate. In fact, I don’t have the presidential race in mind when I give the following warnings.

This is more for the regional political contests. The ones where the incumbents and challengers don’t have an international press corps parsing every utterance, written or verbal. Those are the ones where bullshit is most likely to fly under the radar.

I was inspired to write this because I attended a candidates’ forum a couple of weeks ago, and saw an incumbent pull the bait-and-switch, which I’ll detail below.

When a politician is telling you why you should vote for him or her, watch out for the following tactics.

The bait-and-switch.

As I mentioned, I was at a candidates’ forum recently, and I saw a variation of the following exchange (and it wasn’t much more subtle, either).

MODERATOR: “What would you do about Issue A?”

CANDIDATE: “Well, we have to make a clear distinction between Issue A and Issue B. And my stance on Issue B is very clear. We need to do X, Y and Z about Issue B. So that’s where I stand on Issue B. Next question.”

Hello? Issue A? The subject the question was about that you just totally refused to answer?

I hear politicians do that all the time on national talk shows, too. Rather than answering a question about an issue they don’t want to address, they will subtly (or unsubtly) change to the topic of discussion to something they’d prefer to talk about.

Beware the bait-and-switch. Not only is it weasely and dishonest, but it shows considerable lack of respect for your intelligence as a voter.

“I am not a politician.”

This irritates me in much the same way as those pundits with TV and radio shows and newspaper columns who talk derisively about “the media.” You’ve got a TV and radio show and a newspaper column? You’re the media. Please don’t insult my intelligence by pretending otherwise.

Same with candidates. “Now these POLITICIANS is Washington (or Harrisburg or Trenton or Albany or Scaramento) will tell ya …”

You’re running for office? You’re already an incumbent? You’re a politician. Deal with it.

“I will never compromise, and I will single-handedly overhaul the government.”

I can’t advise you not to vote for somebody who says some variation of this. Because that would be tantamount to suggesting you don’t vote at all.

They all do it to some extent. To be fair, I believe it’s possible to get elected and stick more-or-less to a certain political philosophy. And “I’m gonna get in there and compromise my ass off!” makes for a less-than-inspiring stump speech.

But the assertion that any one politician is going to get anything done without compromises is bullshit. Flawed as the system can be, it’s got checks and balances written into it for a reason.

As a legislator, he or she will be just one vote. As an executive, he or she will still need to get things past the legislature. Unless this politician is planning to stage a coup and establish himself as dictator, he’s not going to remake government in his image without any compromises.

The zillion-dollar, nothing-in-particular fund.

That’s a name I came up with for a theoretical boundless pool of money that every government entity seems to possess.

Man! This is one I heard all the freakin time from candidates when I used to cover politics. It tends to come more from challengers rather than incumbents.

They’d tell me about some grand scheme they had, either for reducing taxes or for new government programs. I’d ask how they intend to pay for it.

None of them would ever say “By raising taxes, of course!”

Instead they’d say that they would reduce government spending in other areas. I’d ask where specifically. They’d say they don’t know yet. But one they get elected, they’re sure they’ll find something.

In other words – there’s this big, zillion-dollar pool of money just sitting around, not doing anything in particular. And it’s never occurred to anybody that they can do something useful with it, until this particular visionary gets elected and points it out.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m certainly not saying that government waste is nonexistent. But be wary if somebody who makes big promises, and can’t say how they’ll be paid for.

Well, that’s it for now. Be sure to vote. Unless you support candidates I don’t, in which case stay home and watch TV.

  1. Carlette says:

    Awesome expose Tom. I feel that I must really take a shower now. Bleh.

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