While our two putative candidates are organizing, sharpening their attacks, making assertions that only a statistician could love, we have a little breathing time to examine a couple of other election year phenomena.
We assume that you, like us, are getting periodic email bulletins from partisans of one side or the other. Each received is intended to scare you into thinking differently about the man for whom you will vote this autumn. And each of these dire warnings needs to be checked out for accuracy, unless you trust your correspondents’ intelligence entirely.
Here, for example, is the entire text of an email we received yesterday. Its subject was an entirely bogus home sales tax. Herewith:
“HOME SALES TAX
Did you know that if you sell your house after 2012 you will pay a 3.8 per cent sales tax on it? That’s $3,800 on a $100,000 home, etc. When did this happen? It’s in the health care bill – and it goes into effect in 2013.
Why 2013? Could it be so that it doesn’t come to light until after the 2012 elections? So, this is ‘change you can believe in’? Under the new health care bill all real estate transactions will be subject to a 3.8 per cent sales tax. If you sell a $400,000 home, there will be a $15,200 tax. This bill is set to screw the retiring generation – who often downsize their homes. Does this make your November, 2012, vote more important? Oh, you weren’t aware that this was in the Obamacare Bill? Guess what: you aren’t alone! There are more than a few members of Congress that weren’t aware of it either. You can check this out at: http://www.gop.gov/blog/10/04/08/obamacare-flatlines-obamacare-taxes-home.
I HOPE YOU FORWARD THIS TO EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN YOUR ADDRESS BOOK. VOTERS NEED TO KNOW!!!”
Well, this is pretty scary. The least we can say is that it’s not your usual racist joke that arrives weekly from your most devoted friends and admirers.
When we read this, and considering its source — an ordinarily sensible college-educated friend in the Pacific northwest — we were, we admit, stunned. And concerned. We were instantly tempted to write about this, put it on the air, and warn the nation.
Common sense prevailed, happily. We googled a bit and came across the National Association Realtors Mythbusters site, which announced in no uncertain terms that this rumor was entirely untrue and a hoax.
With a gigantic sigh of relief, we decided that well, of course, we would have to write about this, after all. The first thing we did was alert our informant and his entire mailing list of the bulletin on the NAR site which tells the simple truth.
This morning, on checking our emails, we found satisfaction. People on my pal’s list were writing to thank me for setting them straight. Said one, “I can’t believe the amount of bogus information – a lot of it anti-Obama – that gets spread over the Internet. Thanks for checking the facts.”
Another wrote: “I should hasten to add that I thank you for ‘mythbusters.’ As the most prosperous nation on earth I think that we should provide healthcare to all. Just how we pay for it concerns me less. If our taxes must increase, so be it. But the income disparity in this country is a real issue.”
What pleased us most in these emails was that they were being sent by friends of my friend, men he obviously thought fell into his political camp. Now that, folks, is reassuring.
Remember Richard Nixon and his prankster Donald Segretti? They were the forerunners of what has come to be known as the Big Lie — actually first understood by George Orwell in “1984” — repeat something really scandalous often enough and people, despite their own better judgments, will eventually believe you. We called this “dirty tricks” back in them thar days.
It appears each election cycle has two long stretches of the Silly Season. The first are the primaries, where would-be politicians are free to say whatever they want, no matter how imbecilic, and command coverage by the press. The second silly season consumes the weeks in high summer before Labor Day when politicians are free to hyperventilate, warn, cudgel, threaten, and praise themselves increasingly without regard for truth of any kind.
Clearly we are deep in the second silly season now. And with the advent of the Internet, political campaigns are free to use public airwaves and social media as they will, which generally adds to the confusion and cacophony of a general campaign.
Add to these newly opened airwaves the Supreme Court’s ruinous decision to declare that corporations should have the same free speech rights as real human beings, replete with feelings and regrets and hope and fears, and you have what has now come to be called The Perfect Storm for political chicanery.
And, we believe, that sooner or later the elephant in the room, ever since Obama was elected, will someday at long last finally raise its trunk and trumpet that many Americans simply cannot abide being led by, or following, a black man as president of the Republic. And he needn’t even be president. He could be the Attorney General.
How else are we to explain the instant animosity towards Obama immediately after his inauguration, before he had even begun to try to sort out some of the nation’s most vexing economic problems? How else are we to explain the seemingly never-ending debate over where the President was born? Over whether his college associations damaged him and his intellect forever? Over whether he’s a Real American?
Kentucky’s Senator Mitch McConnell announced that the Republican agenda was making certain Obama was a one term president before, as president, Obama had hardly spoken a word. We feel certain this would not have been the case had Obama been as tall as he is but white.
Millions of us stayed up late on that night in November 2008 to see Obama in triumph. We were thrilled for him, of course, but more importantly, thrilled with ourselves for finally growing up and recognizing talent and hope in a different kind of man. True enough, many of us have since been disappointed to one degree or another in his performance. But we have never been so disillusioned with him or his policies to take to the public media with conspiracy theories, outright lies about his background, or criticized his attitudes as “socialist” or “European.”
The Republican intransigence, obstructionism, and dirty tricks have come to be seen finally as what they are: methods to keep this country from re-achieving its status around the world as well as internally. Senator McConnell — who has his job, his pension, his healthcare —seems determined to make the USA poorer, less stable, less hopeful.
There are arguments on the other side, with which we are all now familiar, and which are also true: we’ve had no budget for three years, the quagmire in Syria is not lifting, drugs and violence along our southern borders are not being attended to effectively.
And the Democracts, big D, seem intimidated by their opponents, and are letting the Republicans brand them however they wish. The Democrats have not, apparently, yet discovered the value of putting up a good fight.
But the air we breathe in America is not being kept healthy by the diletanting right-wing who feels it can, and will, say anything it wants to get rid of our president. These are not people who want to govern the country wisely. They are people who want Obama to be unable to do that very thing, and that, folks, seems to be about as far into the future as they can look. We think this is not only shameful, it borders on the criminal.