Political elections are funny things. These people are running for the ability to have some measure of direct control over the lives of their constituents, yet those who vote seem to never learn much about them beyond what party they’re from and whatever scandal the evening news turned up.
Often the misinformation that the media or the campaigns themselves churn out is accepted as fact quicker than real information ever would be. After all, it’s usually more entertaining. However, the stunning lack of accountability that political campaigns operate under is simply shocking to me, and it must be stopped.
There are infinitely many examples of the straight-up lies that campaigns use to sling mud at opponents, especially since it’s hardly a modern phenomenon. Andrew Jackson was famously accused of mass murder with a flyer that depicted six coffins at the top, and that was way back in 1828, according to www.u-s-history.com. Today, neither of the presidential candidates is accused of murder, but the false accusations still fly.
One of my favorites is the pro-Barack Obama advertisement that makes it sound as though Mitt Romney’s decision to shut down a steel company caused a woman to die of cancer. Of course, Romney was gone from Bain Capital by the time the company, GST Steel of Kansas City, went bankrupt, but Obama’s team still argues that the ad is fair. I would hope that people would be smart enough to see through that ad, but I doubt it.
Romney is just as guilty, though. He has released multiple advertisements detailing Obama’s remodeling of the welfare system to no longer require work for recipients. Nothing of the sort has happened under the president, but does the public realize that? I am not so sure.
That brings me to the second debate between these two, which was fraught with lies of all kinds. Really the biggest was lying by omission, since none of the questions that were asked of them were ever really answered. Both guys would pass over whatever the poor audience member that was chosen had to say and instead reiterate their entire platform, relevance be damned.
The best example of this, although every question was an example of this, that I saw was an early question about gas prices.
The question was oddly specific, really only asking if the candidate believed that it was the Department of Energy’s job to lower gasoline prices. It’s a yes or no question; how hard can it be? Apparently very difficult, since neither candidate answered it. The question instead served as a gateway to the topic of energy independence, ostensibly because that was a topic that the candidates actually knew something about. After Obama had spoken first on the subject (or thereabouts), the moderator turned to Romney and said, “Governor, on the subject of gas prices?” Romney responded, “Well, let’s look at the president’s policies…” Neither candidate ever expressed their position on the Department of Energy.
And speaking of energy, another point that came up during the question was that of American oil production. Obama claimed oil production is up, whereas Romney asserted that production on government land has fallen substantially. They had an extended standoff at the center of the stage, accusing each other of lying because, clearly, those two conditions cannot possibly exist simultaneously. Yet they do.
Whereas oil production on public lands is down significantly, just as Romney said it was, overall production is up as private drilling has increased. Somehow, unbelievably, both candidates were correct. The lying part came in when they accused each other of it. Either neither man had done his homework, and so was not aware that both positions were technically accurate (if misleading), or they simply preferred to shoot each other down rather than accept the pointlessness of the argument and move on. You can choose which you prefer to believe.
So why do these problems persist in elections? Lack of accountability.
If a politician is caught lying, they can either confess quickly and pray the media shifts public attention elsewhere (if the politician is popular with the media), or just say things were “taken out of context,” no matter if they actually were.
Once the president is elected, impeachment is really the only possible consequence for dropping whoppers like these on the public, and we all saw how well that worked when it happened to Bill Clinton. During election season, it is as if nobody holds the office, so nothing can be taken away from them. Candidates run free, say whatever they want and only answer questions that haven’t been asked. Now, you may say that the consequence for acting like that is defeat on Election Day.
But not if all the candidates do it. It’s already too late for this cycle, but political campaigns need to start being held to a higher standard, or else the leadership of this nation will continue to be granted to the most gifted liars.
Garrett Cimina is a freshman majoring in finance and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.