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By Columnist TRB - Politics, with the introduction of "instant polling" and "focus groups" has changed so much. The digital communication age has led to more evolution in the industry, and the 24-hour cable news cycle has had a profound impact - mostly negative - on representative democracy. Add to this the haywire decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to allow money even more influence in the political process and you begin to understand the rapid growth of this Frankenstein democracy and why it has gone from bad to worse during the past twenty years. It has become more radically right wing, it is meaner (some campaign ads are so mean TV stations refuse to play them.) And it is corrupt to the core.  


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Some of the problem is caused by the bare-faced lie, which has become acceptable in American politics almost as a tradition. This a partly due to the news media reluctance to call a lie a lie. Their side of the story is that they want to be seen as "not taking sides" and being "fair and balanced." So, to them, the liar always "misspoke," or he got "his facts wrong." He or she is very rarely called a liar. Politicians were called liars, however, going all the way back to the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

But then you have to look at the real reason  - hundreds of millions of dollars are going to the networks to pay for ads to the very stations whose job it is to report the lies of our politicians,  among many other things. Networks generally do all they can to avoid critcizing a sponsor. Major candidates are frankly major network sponsors.

So where do all these lies originate? They are a necessary part of what has come to be accepted by politicians, the media and perhaps even the voter as the preferred campaign formula for all Federal office holders.

Using the formula, the candidate begins to line up certain voters, called his "base." The information and attention he or she releases to this base is generally exactly what they want to hear. The "base" might consist of people who believe they should be allowed to carry assault weapons in public; maybe they think the U.S. should nuke Iran before they get the bomb, spend another decade in Afghanistan being slaughtered and outlaw abortion with criminal penalties. Their candidate will line up with every one of those positions. He or she will have "secured the base," and can depend on their vote come election day.

But that is not the end of it. The candidate has to "Widen his or her base."

In other words, the candidate has to look for votes outside his or her circle of "loonies." More votes are needed.

People of color? No. They probably wouldn't vote for a candidate who would send their sons and daughters off to war to be killed just on a whim. Latinos? No. Too late for that. You already said you wanted all "illegal aliens" out of the country.

Women? Now there is a large voting block. But you basically said you would criminalize abortion, close Planned Parenthood and take a large chunk out of women's health programs. Heck, when you had the chance, you didn't even say you were in  favor of equal pay for equal work. Now. you might have to walk some of that back, or rather, iie. So you make a TV commercial and some people who know squat about squat talk about what a nice guy you are to women.

This is called "tacking to the center," and is part of the formula. Actually it is lying to voters.

Women don't like that aggressive war talk either, so you tone that down, saying you agree with your opponent's more peaceful and even-headed positions. You tell those women that peace is very important to you. You are sounding better all the time.

You are rising in the polls.

But isn't this bothering the loonies, who thought you were loyal to all of their brain-dead causes? No, the loonies are fine with it.

They may be looney, but they are not stupid. They know you will come through for them. They know your newer supporters just don't know you as well, and are in for an awfully big surprise.

Really awful.

Really big.       

  



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