Ugly Campaigning

   Every year, I think the campaign ads can’t get any worse—and every year, the inventive souls who churn them out surprise me.


It’s bad enough that every vote is twisted to prove that the person who cast it is a deviant intent upon destroying America, and complex issues are portrayed as choices between good and evil so that they can be shoehorned into 30-second sound bites. Even worse—if that’s possible—is the choice of issues to highlight.


When the New Jersey Supreme Court, consisting of four Republicans and three Democrats, held unanimously that “denying commited same-sex couples the financial and social benefits given their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate government purpose,” the joy and relief was palpable. Republicans were ecstatic. (Gays were generally pleased, too.) Nationally and locally, GOP candidates fell all over themselves proclaiming the centrality of the issue, and the mortal danger posed to the republic should we fail to amend the constitution to ensure that same sex couples will never, ever be able to file joint tax returns.


Presumably, voters will now recognize the triviality of such issues as the fiasco in Iraq, where nearly 3000 young Americans and perhaps 600,000 Iraqis have died. We will ignore the re-emergence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. We will ignore the fact that we sent our troops into danger without proper equipment and without a viable military strategy or exit plan. (Okay, apparently without any strategy or exit plan.)


ters will stop worrying about billions of dollars ripped off by Halliburton and other cronies of the Administration who received juicy no-bid contracts, both in Iraq and Louisiana. And we certainly will stop carping about the incompetence of the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. That was over a year ago, after all—the New Jersey threat is fresh and new, and voters have short memories.


Surely, voters will understand intuitively that the threat posed by committed gay couples is far greater than the threat posed by refusing to implement the recommendations of the 9-11 Commission, or by the warrantless wiretapping and data mining of American citizens by our own government. How many times has the average citizen really needed the right of habeas corpus? What is worse, after all—letting the President decide who is an enemy combatant, and what constitutes torture, or the prospect that Adam and Steve might actually move into the house next door?


Maybe it will work one more time. Maybe those who are terrified of the social change

represented by acceptance of our gay neighbors will once again elevate the issue of gay marriage over and above all other considerations, and energize the Republican base. But maybe not. A recent Ipsos Public Affairs Survey commissioned by the AP asked likely voters who they trusted most to handle a series of issues. On same-sex marriage, 46% trusted Democrats; 36% trusted Republicans.


As the President says, “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again."