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Jane Ahlin, Published October 24 2010

Ahlin: Negative political advertising means no television for a while

Watching the constant, negative national TV advertising pumped into North Dakota for the Earl Pomeroy-Rick Berg U.S. House race night after night has me thinking a silent room with padded walls might not be a bad place to hang out. Consequently, no more television for me until the election is over.

Worse yet, I’ve had to turn off my radio. Well, I’ve given up on AM, and if it weren’t for Prairie Public, I’d be done with FM, too. (What brainiac at MPR scheduled their fall fundraiser for the same time people are desperately twirling the radio dial up and down the frequencies, looking for anything but endless campaign ads? Good grief, public radio stations might pick up listeners – that is, unless they found a way to be even more annoying, like maybe, begging for money.)

It makes us ordinary folks – raised on the mantra that unless we have something nice to say about somebody we should keep our mouths shut – wish that all officials up for office had been anointed like Gov. John Hoeven. His huge lead over state Sen. Tracey Potter in the polls for the U.S. Senate has him running warm, fuzzy stuff – friendly ads that never bother to mention he has an opponent. Nobody has a clue how he stands on any specific issue or anything controversial, but we sure know that he likes senior citizens, and he likes kids, and he likes farmers, and he really likes veterans, and, by the way, his wife thinks he’s the greatest.

Not so for the Pomeroy-Berg race, which is contentious on the national political stage; in other words, we’re stuck.

It could be worse. We could live in Nevada, where the unpopular incumbent senator, Harry Reid, is running against an over-the-top tea partier, Sharon Angle. In the spirit of “how low can it go,” there’s now an ad that’s spoken in Spanish by a man named Robert de Posada telling Hispanics their best choice in the election is not to vote. Of course, he doesn’t mention that he’s a former Republican Party official or that suppressing the Hispanic vote will help the proudly anti-immigration Angle. Maybe “all’s fair” in politics, but there’s something about telling people in a democracy not to vote that’s beyond the pale.

Then again, there’s Colorado, where a challenger for a congressional seat aired an ad scolding the incumbent for a “yes” vote she didn’t cast. Turns out she has the same last name as a male representative from Massachusetts who did cast that vote. Now there’s speculation as to whether the challenger was just plain confused or was trying to pull a fast one.

No surprise, everybody wants the election over, even if it means returning to our customary state of national dysfunction. At least, that must be what we want because the only thing Americans seem serious about is anger. (Those bums could get rid of the deficit if they wanted to. But they better not touch my Social Security and Medicare or military spending. And for crying out loud, they better cut my taxes.)

We certainly don’t want to think about the British, so shaken by Greece’s financial meltdown that they’re instituting draconian measures to get back on track. Their military is cutting 17,000 soldiers, government is cutting all agency budgets by 20 percent and laying off 500,000 workers, banks are being taxed at a higher rate, and even the queen is taking a hit.

The initial reaction of the Brits is to hearken to the austerity of World War II, stiff upper lip, old chap, and getting through it together. That never would fly on this side of the pond, where the nation is divided into “them” (bad guys) and “us” (good guys). Americans want back the days of surplus, when George W. told us to go shopping – that we could have tax cuts, prescription drug benefits and financial deregulation while conducting two wars. We aren’t about to acknowledge “having it all” took us to the edge of a financial abyss, almost sending the nation into a depression, or that it dug a financial hole too deep to climb out of quickly. We want prosperity, and we want it now.

What we don’t want is negative campaigning. It’s as if candidates think they’re dealing with people who are unreasonable.

Ahlin is a weekly contributor to The Forum’s Sunday commentary page.

E-mail janeahlin@yahoo.com.