Where this pattern began I do not know — maybe it has always been around in some form — but it certainly has a snowball effect, especially in today’s world of cable TV and the Internet. Talking heads get a hold of it, which feeds the mass hunger for extremism. Then the politicians start to employ it and round and round she goes.
A recent example of feeding into extreme viewpoints was Republican congressional candidate Mark Amodei’s television commercial, aired in the Las Vegas area. His campaign point was to say how he is opposed to America’s burgeoning debt limit. To illustrate this point, he made a fake futuristic Chinese news report saying how that country rose to power by owning the United States through owning its debt.
“Once upon a time, America became its own worst enemy. When all their borrowed money ran out, they kept spending,” the faux newscaster said, sounding a little like a female Charlie Chan. “As their debt grew, our fortune grew and that is how our great empire rose again.”
As the woman newscaster spoke, an image of marching Chinese troops was superimposed over the White House to illustrate how that country will one day take over ours with the weapon of economics. At the end of the ad, Amodei promises not to vote to raise the Obama administration’s debt limit and prevent this “nightmare” from occurring.
Personally, I would prefer to avoid the nightmare of another year of hyperbolic political campaigning.
Certainly, our nation’s debt is a concern. I worry about my own credit card debt, and I sure hate to think of our entire country struggling to pay its bills as I sometimes do. No one wants to see our country get itself into a situation that would threaten our autonomy, but what I worry about even more is for the electorate to be casting its votes based on scare tactics.
Lately I’ve been watching some documentaries about World War II. Included are scenes of Nazi propaganda blaming Jews and Poles and gypsies and gays for all the woes of the German people at the time. Were the messages of the Third Reich addressing real economic and social concerns of the people? Certainly. Were those messages employing reason and offering solutions based on intelligent planning and logic? Heck no. Instead, Hitler preyed upon unfounded prejudices and fears to find an easy target and rile up his people who voted him into office and supported his own extreme actions.
If I were one to use extremism to make my point, I’d compare Mark Amodei and the Republican Party to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party. I’d say they were employing similar tactics to gain power and then impose their own will upon an unsuspecting electorate.
But I’m not that kind of person. I prefer a well-thought-out plan that shows a candidate put actually thought about how best to represent me in whatever capital they would like to inhabit.
Selling me on a good plan is impossible in a 30-second TV spot, so candidates instead employ catchy tactics to get my attention in that time. Smart voters, after laughing at the commercial, would then try to forget the ridiculousness of the ad, research a candidate and then make an informed selection in the ballot booth. The candidate, however, counts on the laziness of the average voter and hopes to win the vote based solely on the fear excited by the extremism of the TV message.
Isn’t modern democracy grand?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going bungee jumping.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.