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by Julia Sneden

This is the 13th time I have voted for a presidential candidate, and, dear reader, I have never been so glad to see Election Day arrive.

The lead-up to my moment in the voting booth has been made unbelievably fractious, exciting, surprising, and ultimately exhausting as candidates fell by the wayside (or were pushed off the cliff), and the early veneer of goodwill and sportsmanship between the two front-runners dwindled. The one thing these campaigns have not been is boring.

Back before the primaries, it seemed to me that for once we had several good candidates on each side. No matter your political affiliation, you could probably find someone who seemed viable, or even very promising.

In the ensuing months, there have been predictable charges and counter-charges batted back and forth by both candidates. Positions have been abandoned, and claims have been made and withdrawn. Saturday Night Live has pulled itself out of a ratings slump with a vengeance.

All of this should make for a lively lesson in the political process, but its allure has been lessened by the nonsense purveyed by the public relations/advertising advisors to the candidates. No one expects those people to be simon-pure or even moderately honest, but this year they’ve produced a crop of television ads that take the cake.

I want to know where the people who make those ads find the actors who read their scripts. Do they send out a call asking talent agencies for males who specialize in oleaginous, insinuating, disdainful voices? Or for females who can deliver the scripts in a gossipy whisper that conveys distaste and disgust while maligning the candidate on the opposing side?

In my state, we have just had a rouser-dowser of an example in an ad proudly claimed by Senator Elizabeth Dole that purports to unmask her opponent, Kay Hagan, as someone supported by Godless Americans. In fact, Mrs. Hagan attended a fund raiser in Boston where someone affiliated with a group of Atheists was also present. He later donated money (as an individual, not as a representative of the Atheists) to her campaign. Mrs. Dole’s diggers turned up this fact, and turned out an ad announcing it along with a picture of Kay Hagan at the end, and another woman’s voice played over the photo saying: “There is no God” several times over. The implication is clearly that Mrs. Hagan was the speaker.

Our airwaves fairly shook with Hagan’s indignation as she refuted the charges. She is in fact a Presbyterian Elder, a Sunday school teacher, and a devout Christian. In her televised rebuttal, she posited that inasmuch as she is a Christian and Mrs. Dole knows it, it seemed rather un-Christian for her opponent to bear false witness against her.

From all that I have heard, the Dole ad has boomeranged big-time, despite the fact that North Carolina is home to many fundamentalists, never mind Christians of other stripes. If nothing else, it may demonstrate that the great American public is nowhere near as stupid as our politicians think, and that appealing to the worst in us may very well result in having that worst thrown right back at you. (Editor's Note: Elizabeth Dole was not re-elected)

Every bit as annoying as the television ads are the phone calls. I don’t remember ever receiving so many computerized phone calls as the election nears. Candidates for city, county, state, and national offices have joined the electronic age and sent out their plugs to the hapless public. Their favorite hours to send their messages seem to be early morning and dinnertime. After answering three phone calls between serving the supper and taking the first bite, who could blame someone for banging down the phone, if not changing her vote?

My own favorite head-shaker was a call that began: “Howdy, neighbor, this is Andy Griffith.” No one should complain about celebrities urging people to get out and vote, but couldn’t they do it via the air waves, where they belong, instead of making you rush to answer your phone in the midst of stirring the stew?

There is one aspect of this election that has gladdened even my curmudgeonly heart, however, and that is the incredible turnout for the early voting that is now allowed by many states. If the statistics are any indication, Americans are taking this election very seriously, despite the funny-farm antics of the media people, and indeed we may see an all-time high in the percentage of registered voters who actually vote. And that fact doesn’t need any hype to make it remarkable.

No matter who received your vote, this Thanksgiving we can be grateful that the hype has ended — at least until 2012.


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