Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Politics As Usual

Over the past few months, Laurie and I have been watching the seven seasons of The West Wing on DVD and it is interesting to see how much of what was done in the series parallels things that are still happening today. Though a couple of plot lines -- the kidnapping of Bartlett's daughter, for example -- are overly melodramatic, situations in the Middle East, issues with North Korea, and numerous domestic problems all ring true.

Much of the sixth season and all of the seventh focus on the presidential primaries and election of a successor to Jed Bartlett. The rise of Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), a Latino Congressman from Texas, so foreshadows the emergence of Barack Obama in 2008 that you wonder if Obama's campaign people used the show as their playbook. The behind-the-scenes look at the campaigns of Santos and Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda) in the show gives a lot of insight to the current Presidential race.


Since it is apparently a foregone conclusion that President Obama will win in New York, we have seen virtually no ads for him or for Mitt Romney. In fact, our airwaves have been relatively free of political ads.

Our junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is running for re-election, and there have been a couple of TV ads about her. I mentioned to Laurie a couple of weeks ago that there had to be a Republican candidate running against Gillibrand, but had no idea who it could be. A day or two later, Laurie found a small article in the newspaper that mentioned the candidate, Wendy Long.

Similarly, there must be a Democrat running against incumbent Congressman Peter King, but whoever it is seems to be hiding out.

In fact, the only race spending money on local airtime seems to be that between Congressman Tim Bishop and challenger Randy Altschuler in nearby Suffolk County. The entire campaign is devoted to attack ads; neither candidate bothers telling the voters what good he has done or will do, just how bad his opponent is.
An Altschuler ad condemns Bishop for "voting with Nancy Pelosi 97% of the time" in a tone that would make you think Pelosi was Satan. She is, rather, the Minority leader of the House of Representatives and, since Bishop is a Democrat, it is not surprising that he votes the party line 97% of the time. One might reasonably expect that the voters who elected him would want that.
Bishop's ads focus on Altschuler's claim of being "a proven job-creator," by pointing out that Altschuler was a leading proponent of outsourcing and that most of the jobs he created were in India.


Finally, a radio ad that has recently debuted asks, "Aren't you tired of politicians who tell you at election time that they are on the side of the taxpayer and small business in order to get your vote?" The ad goes on to say that only one political party has remained consistent on their position in support of those groups -- the Conservative Party -- so you should vote for their candidates.
Well, assuming that I agree with their views, that might be a viable alternative. Except that most of the candidates on the Conservative ticket are the Republican candidates... and aren't they among those flip-flopping candidates the ad starts out by condemning?

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