The Blaming Game
<Cue Jim Lange voice over>
It’s time for America’s favorite game show that occurs every four years … The Blaming Game!
It’s time to meet our contestants and heeeeeeere they are!
thought was too over the top for their Nevada Senate campaign in 2010. And people, believe me, that race as ugly as I’ve ever seen in 30+ years of watching these things.
I have friends who have wholeheartedly joined team “Fi Slamma Obama” and post every negative thing they can find on the guy. Sadly, they get most of their ammunition from FoxNews, which has all the credibility of of a Major League Baseball player being accused of using performance enhancing drugs.
Over the course of the next few months, just hunker down and get ready. It’s going to get ugly. Fox is sold out to the GOP, MSNBC is pretty much in the Dems hip pocket and the rest of the country is left wondering who the heck they can trust. And when it comes to the media, there really aren’t a lot of good choices.
So what’s a person to do? I mean, if you really want to vote for the person you think will do the best job, how are you supposed to figure that out? I know a lot of young people out there who will be voting in their first presidential election and who look like a deer in the headlights when you ask them to seriously discuss the issues.
Well, as someone who has weathered seven of these suckers since I started voting – and who has called every single one right including the one when I was still in junior high school and Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford – let me offer some advice. By the way, let me temper my following tidbits with the fact that I have also spent nearly 12 years in the media, mostly in newspapers. And when it comes to print, just remember this – that big story on the front page isn’t necessarily what the editors thought was the biggest story that day, but what they thought would sell the m0st papers in the rack. They don’t care what the subscribers think, because they already have their money.
1. Picking the best candidate
OK, at the risk of sounding like a defeatist, this just isn’t possible. See, no matter who you vote for, you’re picking a party. Sure, there will be a main guy and his second on the ticket, but in the end the party will essentially call the shots. Unless some president mysteriously grows a spine after he gets in office, he’ll pretty much tote the company line. He’ll try and lead it, and that’s noble, but in the end he’s the QB getting plays from the sidelines. No one in a very long time has been the political equivalent of Peyton Manning.
So the trick here is to pick the team that best represents YOUR views of how things need to work in this country. Don’t pick them based on the party you’re aligned with, the church you go to (or don’t go to) or what your dad says you should do. The only way the system really works is when you pick the people you think should be in charge. As I said before, I have accurately picked the winner of every election since Carter-Ford, but that doesn’t mean I always voted for the guy that won.
Vote your conscience.
When I was turning 18 my dad announced that we were having a family meeting to decide how we were going to vote. I figured this meant that we’d discuss stuff, get information and then we’d each cast our ballot on election day. What he meant was that we’d listen to what he said and we’d all cast the same vote whether we agreed or not. He said he didn’t want us canceling out each others vote. As much as my dad hated the Soviet Union back in the day, he had created his own private Moscow around our dinner table.
I made the mistake of questioning this thinking during the meeting, and he went ballistic. Afterwards my mom took me aside and whispered, “Just sit there and listen, keep your mouth shut and vote how you want. It makes it a lot shorter.” I did that for a few years, before I couldn’t help but stand up for truth, justice and the American way – even if I didn’t have a cape.
So now you know why politics were banned at family meals and get-togethers in the Allen Household.
2. Issues vs. Marketing
The next few months are going to be brutal with campaign ads everywhere. The trick is to sort out the hype vs. the fluff. Let me give you an example…
When Bill Clinton was running for his second term in 1997, he was up against the GOP’s Bob Dole. When you listened to the two of them debate, Clinton did OK but it was Dole who had clear, significant ideas on how the country could improve even further under his leadership. But someone in the GOP camp did Dole a complete disservice and marketed him as this stiff, angry, old man that no one liked very much. And when push came to shove, Clinton came off looking like your slightly drunk uncle who slips you a five every time your parents aren’t looking. Meanwhile, Dole looked like your disgruntled grandpa who tells you the stories of how he walked to school every day in the snow, uphill both ways.
It may seem stupid, but ever since John F. Kennedy figured out how to look better on camera than Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential debates, the game has changed significantly. It’s much more about style than substance.
Or in the case of Obama vs. John McCain, a complete lack of substance. McCain and the GOP made more errors than people could keep up with. Sarah Palin wasn’t necessarily a bad choice for running mate, but she was a bad choice at that time. She was a newly elected governor of Alaska and had all the political savvy of a freshman boy surrounded by bullies in a high school bathroom. The media ate her alive and in this day and age, they will play every mistake over and over and over. McCain and Palin both made too many mistakes and had too many weird stuff come out of their closets during that campaign to overcome.
So how do you find the truth? In a word: Research.
We have a great tool at our disposal in the Internet. The trick is to not just look at the sights that support your side of the issue. You may find it distasteful, but reading the enemy’s materials is a great resource for finding out just how honest your guys really are. Examine everything thoroughly and get multiple sources. Read, read and read some more. TV news shows are OK, but remember that they are designed to play to the short human attention span.
Every form of media, from the national conglomerate to the hometown newspaper, is filled with people. Much like socialism, using people is the media’s one fatal flaw. Not sure how to get around that, but I’m sure when the computers rise up and overthrow humanity, they’ll figure it out.
But the reason I point that out is that every form of media will have some bias. So multiple sources and viewpoints are a must!
3. That’s One Big Cookie Jar!
The fact of the matter is that no matter which party, candidate or cartoon character you support for political office, they all have their hand in someone else’s pocket. Elections are not cheap enterprises and the more money a candidate has, the better their chance to take office. So now matter who you back, your guy or gal is always beholding to someone else. Know that, own that and don’t be ignorant of it.
The real question is: Are you OK with who they owe a debt to? Figure that out and you’re most of the way home.
4. Keepin’ the Faith
Billy Joel could not have said it better, even if he was talking about his old says back in the neighborhood. If you’re a person of faith, you need to come to terms with how YOU reconcile YOUR faith with the candidate that YOU want to vote for. Jesus has given us a very intimate relationship with Him and we can spend as much time as we like with Him to get guidance on who we should vote for. And remember, you and your wife/husband/sister/pastor/employer/dog may get very different messages on who to vote for. That’s OK. In the end, God is going to put in office the person that HE wants in there, no matter what the plans of men may be.
But I will offer up that if your dog voices an opinion on the election, that you’d better get him either a priest or an agent, ASAP!