Politics & Other Mistakes: Context, schmontext

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“Ad attacking Gideon for paying taxes late misses context” — Kennebec Journal headline, Aug. 21.

“The PAC’s context-free attack on Collins illustrates how campaign ads, and politics in general, can make a mess of complicated issues …” — Maine Public political newsletter, Aug. 21.

“The major claims, with context … Because most Mainers got a tax cut from the bill, Collins’ campaign is correct that a full repeal of the law with no replacement would increase taxes on most Maine families in the short term. But a repeal of the law with no replacement does not appear to be the position Gideon supports …” — Bangor Daily News story, Aug. 19.

“The major claims, with context … In her 24-year tenure in the Senate, Collins has voted on a range of bills related to health care and prescription drugs. But the ad’s suggestion – that campaign contributions the Maine senator received led her to vote in ways that made prescription drug prices more expensive – does not hold up with her overall record …” — Bangor Daily News story, Aug. 19.

Context is a quirky thing. Too little of it and almost anything is open to misinterpretation. Too much and almost anything can be relegated to insignificance.

Let me put that in, uh, context. 

In most political campaigns, nearly everybody is lying nearly all the time. In the current, tight U.S. Senate race between Republican Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon absolutely everybody is lying 100 percent of the time. There’s no need for context because nothing either side says bears the slightest resemblance to the truth.

Expect that tendency toward falsehood to accelerate as we get closer to the November election, and both sides grow more desperate. For instance:

Gideon is an assassin working for the North Korean government.

Collins is spreading the coronavirus through infected mailers and over the telephone.

Gideon kicks puppies.

Collins kicks old people.

Gideon is a fentanyl addict.

Collins is hooked on booze and pills.

See, there’s no need for context. Neither side in the ugliest and most expensive race in Maine history will be discussing issues, mostly because that would require taking a stand on something of importance, which would be guaranteed to alienate those voters who hold opposing views. It’s much easier to post doctored photos of your opponent embracing Jeffrey Epstein and a 14-year-old girl.

I’m not merely speculating when I predict the garbage slinging is about to get worse. I recently got called by some outfit allegedly conducting a poll of the Senate race. After some routine queries, the “pollster” asked a series of questions about whether it would change my opinion of my preferred candidate if I knew a whole bunch of horrible things about her.

I protested that some of these dastardly deeds were flat-out false, while others lacked that context thingie. The minimum-wage worker on the other end of the line brushed aside my concerns, saying she was just offering these assorted crimes against humanity as possibilities and wasn’t making any assertions about their accuracy.

I decided to add a bit of context to our discussion. “This is a push poll,” I said, “and I’m not taking part.” Then, I hung up.

The company called back 15 minutes later to assure me they were conducting a legitimate survey, and I could help them by just agreeing to answer a few more questions about whether it would bother me to learn that the candidate I currently support has attempted to sell U.S. military secrets to Iran.

I declined.

When I mail in my absentee ballot in a few weeks, I’d like to vote for somebody whose platform best addresses the crucial issues facing this country. But to do that, I’ll have to ignore claims the Senate hopefuls deliberately set the wildfires in California, poisoned the Flint, Michigan, water supply, or sabotaged the Red Sox starting rotation. Sadly, I’ll have to settle for voting against the candidate who told the most reprehensible lies.

That’s as close to context as I can get this year.

Anyone who emails me at [email protected] is probably a Chinese spy.

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