This might be a very good time to take Ctein's famous advice: "Put down the can opener, and step away from that can of worms." But here goes.
I have a suggestion.
We're in the middle of a hotly-contested election here in Wisconsin. It's for State Supreme Court, which is usually a pretty sleepy affair, but this year it coincides with the election for Milwaukee County Executive—the old one vacated the post to run for Governor—which brings out the city voters, and it comes at a time when a very controversial new law is probably on its way to the State Supreme Court. So passions are running high and special interest money is pouring into Wisconsin from both sides.
I just had a modest suggestion: we should pass a law—no, a Constitutional Amendment—banning any political ad that even mentions any candidate's opponent. At this point, our two candidates for the highest judgeship in the State are each screaming that the other loves child molesters. It's completely ridiculous. This constant barrage of hysterical, slanderous negative advertising is uncivilized, disreputable, highly unpleasant, and mostly just plain disgusting. You can't even reward the candidates that refrain from it, because they all do it—both sides.
Enough, I say. I'd ban all negative ads. Make people make a positive case for themselves or their candidates and shut up about the other guy. What we're subjected to in elections these days is just beneath us. It's certainly beneath me, I'll say that. I hate it.
The election is on Tuesday. I can hardly wait for Wednesday to come.
P.S. No partisan comments will be posted, so watch it please! (Wonder how hard it's going to be to herd worms?)
Open Mike is a series of OT (off-topic) posts on a variety of topics that appears only, but not always, on Sundays.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Barb Smith: "Sorry to disagree, but I am all for the First Amendment and anything goes. In the long run, free speech is best and let it all shake out."
Featured Comment by Mandeno Musings: "I haven't seen the ads, but you're probably right. However, such ads are a trivial evil when compared to restrictions on free speech.
"Think about the implications of what you desire, which is government control of what people can and cannot say. Do you really want to have so-called hate speech laws which mean that the police can arrest you when you express an opinion? This is happening now in Canada, the U.K., Europe, China, and North Korea.
"Better to be in a free, impolite society than an oppressed, polite one."
Mike replies: Yeah, yeah, you're both right. I'm wrong. Still, I can wish I lived in a free, polite society, can't I?
Featured Comment by Asty: "Couldn't help but think of this Simpson's moment."
(Here's the direct link if you can't see it here. —Ed.)
Featured Comment by Roger Moore: "That seems a bit extreme to me. I don't like the smears, but not allowing candidates to discuss their opponents is going way too far in the other direction. A major point of elections is to hold the incumbents accountable for their behavior while in office. Challengers can only do that by bringing up the incumbent's record. Forbidding candidates from mentioning their opponents will make the system less accountable.
"If you're going to go to the trouble of passing a Constitutional Amendment, pass one that takes money out of the campaigns. The current system encourages corruption, but we're stuck with large parts of it as long as the Supreme Court holds that it's fine for donors to spend unlimited money buying campaign ads. A Constitutional Amendment could override that and give us a system where politicians represented their constituents, not their donors."
Mike replies: Roger, You've probably put your finger more squarely on the problem than I did. Campaign finance reform was recently set back to the dark ages, and we will be reaping the poisonous fruits of that for many years to come. What I'm objecting to is most probably the new normal. I guess I'd better get used to it.
Featured Comment by Dan Berry: "Will Rogers said 'What they have to do to get elected ought to disqualify the from holding the office.' Will was always right; I could not agree more."
Featured Comment by Joe Kashi: "It seems that elected judges is the immediate issue.
"Judges should not be elected, particularly not in a partisan election. Judges should be appointed for merit and then periodically standing for re-election in a non-partisan retention election. That avoids the worst abuses.
"I am admitted to practice in states that appoint judges on merit and states where anyone who can shake down a few million from potential litigants and their lawyers can stand for election.
"Appointing judges on merit tends to result in the sort of courts that citizens can be proud of, or at least feel as though they were heard and had a fair shake, even if they lose. When you don't have to raise a lot of money to retain your livelihood, it's much easier to concentrate on your job and to avoid even the appearance of impropriety or possible taint of corruption.
"Here in Alaska, under our constitution, three or more nominees for the bench are first selected for merit by a non-partisan panel of lay persons, lawyers, and judges, with the finalists forwarded to the Governor, who appoints the judge from the finalists.
"After appointment, the judge stands for retention re-election on the first election after appointment and periodically every several years thereafter. A non-partisan panel polls jurors, attorneys, police, and others who have observed that judge first hand and publishes the results of those polls in a pre-election pamphlet that goes to every registered voter.
"This system has worked very well for decades in Alaska and is considered a model for the rest of the country by national legal groups."