The Universal Notebook: Awash in political pornography

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As I write this column a week before the November 8 elections, I have no idea what the results will be (or were). When I voted on October 28, I crossed my fingers that not a single Republican would be elected to anything, but that’s probably too much to hope for.

Quite honestly I am sick, sick, sick of political campaigns and the toxic pollution of attendant attack ads.

Given the foul bilge that has filled our airways in recent months, I could easily be persuaded to vote to ban all political advertising. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t free speech. It’s political pornography.

The worst abuses were in the Poliquin v. Golden Second District Congressional race with attack ads portraying incumbent Rep. Jared Golden as a Biden stooge responsible for everything from inflation and high gas prices to trying to kill the lobstering industry. Republican challenger Bruce Poliquin was seen slogging through the swamps on his way to end women’s reproductive rights, Medicare and Social Security.

Edgar Allen BeemWhy anyone would want to go to Congress is beyond me. It must be the pay and the power, because it certainly isn’t the prestige. In a recent Gallup poll of which of 16 institutions Americans have confidence in, Congress (7%) came in dead last.

And how about those LePage v. Mills ads accusing LePage of being cruel and Mills of handing out crack pipes to addicts? Or what to make of the lobsterman who proclaimed that Golden accepting campaign contributions from an environmental group was “a kick in the nuts?” New lows in lies.

Television stations (11%) were next to last in the confidence poll. I get it. It’s not just that TV news tends to have a liberal or conservative bias, it’s the pretense of objectivity that bothers me. It’s hard to respect a television station as a neutral fact-finder or its anchor as an unbiased moderator of a candidate debate when television is the biggest beneficiary of the obscene amounts of dark money that produces the political porn the networks air.

In the decline and fall of American confidence, the criminal justice system (14%) came in just after newspapers (16%), the presidency (23%), Supreme Court (25%), schools (28%) and churches (31%). The only American institution with majority approval was the military (64%).

In a better America, candidates would not be allowed to speak about their opponents at all. They would be restricted to promoting their own qualifications and ideas. Third parties would not be allowed to either trumpet or trash candidates. And television stations would provide free airtime to all candidates.

The bull was so thick as Election Day approached that the Truth would have been smothered alive in putrid propaganda if, in fact, it still existed. No minds were being changed. No one was being influenced. Anyone who hadn’t made up his/her/their minds by the Fourth of July probably shouldn’t have been allowed to vote.

Now we are increasingly seeing how nasty verbal attacks are inciting physical violence, first in Trump’s January 6 insurrection and more recently in the assault on Paul Pelosi. Who is next? Dr. Fauci?

Ranked choice voting was supposed to clean up the sewer of American politics and restore faith in the outcomes of American elections. Well, it failed miserably, as will the American experiment if we can’t pull ourselves up out of the gutter of uncivil discourse.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.

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