GREENWOOD — All’s fair in love and war, but how about a disclaimer: “Hi, my name is … . And I may or may not be telling you the truth”?

It’s happening again: We are being saturated with political commercials filled with blatant lies, scandalous accusations and profoundly absurd claims. There are seemingly no limits to what the candidates are doing, will do and have done to win. Changing positions from the primary to the general election is now done as easily as changing shoes. Why so easy, you ask? Well … because the law and you and I let them.

There are 208 million eligible American voters. Less than 75 percent of us register to vote. Only 45 percent actually cast a ballot, which means a small portion of eligible voters often chooses our elected officials.

Much of this participation apathy comes from the constant barrage of negative, baseless ads that pollute the contests to the point that most of us tune out. We witness and become numb to constantly changing and pandering positions, adopted by the candidates. After campaigning so negatively, with little or no impunity to what is said, intoned or implied, is there any reason to believe that these folks will behave any differently when they reach Augusta or Washington? I think not.

The din of August rhetoric rose several octaves in September, to then, in the first days of October, a shrill peak of attacks by groups I have never heard of before – likely finishing with a crescendo of misleading drivel so deafening that many of us will become part of the 55 percent who don’t vote. Many of us will fast forward through the commercials or watch HBO or Netflix.

Decades ago, going negative used to be the political equivalent of throwing a “Hail Mary pass.” Now it’s part of the game plan from Day One. Supreme Court rulings like Citizens United and McCutcheon allow politicians the ability to say almost anything in the name of free speech.


So races now go more like this: First, we hear how the candidate abhors negativity. Then they go negative, hoping their earlier statements don’t count. Free speech in campaigns allows the most dishonest, slanderous and wildly audacious statements to appear in print, on TV and online with no punishment, apologies or disclaimers because there is no penalty.

There are blue moons, and once in a while they appear in political races. In the 1996 Maine Republican U.S. Senate primary, the two leading candidates, Robert A.G. Monks and John Hathaway, played out a soap opera allegedly involving a juicy baby-sitting accusation/scandal. True? Does it matter? No!

Astoundingly, as these guys painted themselves out of the picture, we had a rare blue political moon, resulting in now-senior Sen. Susan Collins winning the nomination and then the general election in November.

Here are two examples of some pretty shady stuff I saw recently, one for each side.

 In the U.S. Senate race, Democratic candidate Shenna Bellows accuses Susan Collins of being against equal pay for equal work. Although Collins voted against the flawed Paycheck Fairness Act, a review of her career shows the claim that she opposes equal pay for equal work is without basis.

 In the 2nd Congressional District race, where Republican Bruce Poliquin is facing off against Democrat Emily Cain, an ad shows the ISIS flag flying and claims that Cain does not support energy independence – clearly implying she was supporting terrorism. Similarly, there is nothing on record that hints of truth.

We need to demand the same honesty in politics as we expect in everyday life. I think political ads should come with a disclaimer like the one on cigarettes: “Smoking is dangerous, poisonous, causes fetal abnormalities and kills.” How about trying this before or after political ads? “Warning: This commercial may or may not contain facts and may or may not be truthful.” It’s a tall order.

We need to force candidates to police themselves. Identify misleading ads, write the campaigns and tell them they underestimate you. Let them know that you are fed up with all the garbage, and get the truth.

Wouldn’t it be great if the ads started with this disclaimer: “The following commercial is paid for by a wealthy out-of-state entity that wants to influence politics for personal gain.”

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