“With the presidential election just around the corner, we’ve already started seeing all sorts of politically charged ads touting one candidate or another as the next champion of one of the most powerful nations on Earth, the one and only beacon of light to carry our perfect ideals of democracy and capitalism to every dark corner of the world, whether others embrace them or not.””
With the presidential election just around the corner, we’ve already started seeing all sorts of politically charged ads touting one candidate or another as the next champion of one of the most powerful nations on Earth, the one and only beacon of light to carry our perfect ideals of democracy and capitalism to every dark corner of the world, whether others embrace them or not. They still work for everyone, right? Not reallly.
One minute, some candidate or another is vividly depicted in random acts of kindness, kissing babies, giving money to homeless and playing bingo with the elderly. And of course, there is a cheery voice in the background describing their good deeds and excellent sense of personal hygiene. You feel like you can trust this person, even though you admittedly haven’t put forth any effort into researching the issues, let alone formed an educated opinion about them.
All of a sudden, the screen goes to slightly out-of-date shades of black and white, the other candidate’s face is shown wearing an unflattering expression, and the voice changes to something resembling that of the devil. There’s nothing happy about the ad now. This person is consorting with drug dealers, punching baby seals for fun, and making inappropriate comments on others’ Facebook walls. Not a nice person at all. At least, that’s the impression that you get from the ad, regardless of whether the information is accurate.
That probably sounds a bit extreme, but the general concept certainly applies to the few months leading up to an election, if not the specific details.
It’s common sense, really. Two people want the same job. In a competitive struggle such as that, it’s natural to attempt to discredit the other person and make yourself out to be more than you actually are. It’s nothing new, but it still affects the way we feel about particular candidates.
To compound this misleading effect, many Americans are relatively uninformed about the issues. Getting a good grip on the facts of it all takes considerable time, something usually lacking in a college student’s life. Instead of going out and getting reliable empirical data, we take the information in as it’s handed to us, either through TV, radio, newspapers or the Internet.
The combination of our own laziness and the convenience and ubiquity of messages the candidates want us to hear and believe makes us more susceptible to making ill-informed decisions. That’s probably not a good thing when we’re deciding our nation’s future.
Considering that any source of information has the potential to be biased in one way or another, one might ask where to find good factual information about the candidates without the political spin that’s undoubtedly hidden somewhere.
The first step is to take the interests of the parties out of the equation. Do an online search for nonpartisan presidential information, and you’ll get decent results. CNN is also pretty good at giving out the facts straight-up and unaltered. Finally, Project Vote Smart is dedicated to giving the public a crystal clear image of the candidates, including biographies, voting records, positions on issues, public statements and campaign finances, and they actually check their facts to verify their accuracy.
The information to make an informed decision is out there, free of any sly attempts to sway you towards a particular candidate. In the time leading up to the election, take a while and go check it out.