As I headed down to the mall for a bit of early voting (and a blueberry and yogurt smoothie), I was ambushed by a yet another campaign volunteer. It felt like getting mugged.
Caught me unawares. The sneaky varmint came out of nowhere, thrusting a political flier at me. If I had had expertise in martial arts, that would have been the time.
I held up both hands, palms outward, as if he was trying to hand me a dead rat. Turned my head away. Refused to make eye contact. “Please,” I said. “I've had enough.”
Apparently, I hadn’t had enough. No más, no matter. Voting early would not inoculate me from days more of robo calls and nasty mailers and annoying pop-up Internet ads and odious TV commercials.
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According to analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity (talk about soul-killing research) this campaign has slapped Floridians senseless with TV commercials, one coming nearly every 30 seconds. Or, to be precise, for the week ending Oct. 27, Floridians endured 2,729 political TV ads a day. That’s 114 an hour. Nearly all of them mean attack ads. Some of them outright lies; others grotesque distortions of something that might have been, in some other context, akin to truth. Very little to do with governing. Everything to do with winning.
Some $150 million later, the cumulative effect of the meanest campaign in modern memory has infected Floridians with a kind of visceral loathing of all things political. Political consultants, the low-down, hate-spewing dogs who’re killing American democracy, have become expert in mass brainwashing, turning the electorate into a giant sleeper cell of dispirited cynics, like the Manchurian Candidate on an industrial scale.
So on Election Day, after months of political vileness, the likes of me are supposed to be urging a disillusioned electorate to go vote. You know. Civic duty and all.
Well, yeah. Despite it all. Go vote.
If nothing else, vote for Amendment 1, to restore funding to the Florida’s depleted program to buy up environmentally sensitive land. Or Amendment 2, for no other reason than to reject the inane vote-no ad campaign warning that legal medical marijuana would morph into the next big date-rape drug. Or vote against the very sneaky Amendment 3.
In Broward County, even the most disillusioned citizens ought to be able to rally around a ballot item reauthorizing funding for the Broward Children’s Services Council. Or the school bond issue. Folks in Miami-Dade, no matter how disgusted with their choice of candidates, could still feel good about approving Florida International University’s expansion plans.
Or you can think of voting as an act of revenge against the campaign consultants after they spent so many millions discouraging moderates, hoping reasonable folks stay home, trying to reduce the electorate to a bunch of angry zealots.
Of course, this being Florida, even get-out-the-vote campaigns can add to the electorate’s sense of outrage. Last week, mailers arrived at homes of registered Republicans in Miami-Dade, Orange, Collier and Lee counties, disclosing the names of folks in their neighborhood who had not yet cast votes. “Don’t throw away your vote! Your neighbors will know. It’s public record,” the mailer warned. “Every year, thousands of your neighbors fail to vote. We think it’s too important. This year, we are providing the names of your neighbors and their voting record. The next time we send this mailer, we will include information on who voted in this upcoming November election.”
Reporters traced the odious mailer to an Orlando-based political operation called Citizens for a Better Florida, which seemed to derive its funding from a political PAC underwritten by the Florida Association of Realtors. Keeping to the spirit of the 2014 political campaigns, Florida Realtors just naturally decided that intimidation, extortion and violations of privacy would make a dandy get-out-the-vote campaign.
That was lowdown. I’m going even lower with my own desperate get-the-hell-out-and-vote-or-else campaign by stealing a concept from the old National Lampoon magazine, the January 1973 edition. The cover depicted a very cute but worried looking dog with a pistol pointed at its head. The caption read: “If you don't buy this magazine, we'll shoot this dog.”
Well, it’s Election Day, circa 2014, after the nastiest political campaign ever. So if you don’t vote, well, I’m warning you. ... “Here Jasper. Here boy...”