May is already “mayhemic” enough without an election primary mixing in with my current life of end of school year madness as Spring continues to burst to life compounding everyday stresses with the sound of loud birds and overpowering flower fragrances. There’s even a lunar eclipse, as I write this, thrown in for good measure. The primary season’s chatter from too many political candidates feels like a wall of sound impossible to ignore–a constant assault by TV ads, texts, social media appearances, radio spots and glossy, probably unrecyclable flyers crowding the mailbox. The good thing: It ends today. Hmmmmm, that phrase that feels like I’m quoting a recent ex-president. On election day I don’t celebrate democracy, I celebrate by counting the hours when it will be too late to tell me who to vote for.
It’s too much blather and never enough concrete information. I suffer under the illusion that somehow all of this works and I’m not talking about voting machines. Being knee deep in flyers, ads and election propaganda has me wondering where this is getting us. So many flyers from Kurt Schrader arrived that I joked on social media that Schrader had moved in with us. This joke went over like a lead balloon, I mean, like, no likes, okay maybe one but it was probably from me. This sad fact left me wondering why Schrader has been trying so hard to be reelected. I wondered about what was behind this nonstop ad campaign. I heard accusations of support from Big Oil and pharmaceutical companies. I’m unsure because I’m not willing to follow my own money, much less that of a political campaign.
In Schrader’s case, I made up my mind that this guy would never get my vote because of his omnipotence. I’ve seen enough. Not even his posing with a puppy in an ad could win me over. I was annoyed to the point of disgust and rage. The over exposure overwhelmed me and yet, I’m naive to think I could have escaped primary season unscathed. I have a short memory but it’s coming back to me with the realization that in previous election years I’ve also been driven mad by too many campaign ads.
I was fine with my decision to turn my back on poor Kurt, I even had another candidate in mind, then I saw the first negative ad about this opponent. Doubt creeped in as if someone had hired the old superhero Seed of Doubt Man as part of the politician’s campaign team, I wondered where I might find the truth hidden amongst the hyperbolic assault on the senses. The attack ad used provocative words like “toxic,” “fired” and an insinuation that this person had been a bad boss. This stuck in my craw but because I was voting against Schrader any evil was better than the evil behind the glossy paper flyer overload and having the image of an earnest, animal loving politician shoved deep inside my cerebral cortex.
We suffer from words and what used to be called campaign promises. There’s an old thought that if a politician tells you about the changes they’re going to make, you have to wonder why they haven’t changed anything before. It’s a stalemate and yet, how are we even going to make understanding our political system entertaining enough for us to take an interest? Political ads feel like propaganda films filled with politicians who smile, pay attention to commoners and sit down to drink coffee with potential voters. Heck do any of these politicians know my vote is for sale for a cup of coffee, or two?
The solution is sure to be found in making an effort to seek out candidates. This means reading the voluminous voter guide, which I thumbed through, and making an effort to listen to political debates. I happened to catch candidates from the new 6th District on OPB’s Think Out Loud radio show. I was disappointed to hear that they were squeezing the candidate’s comments between other segments. It felt rushed. How can you put time limits on democracy? A certain candidate stood out to me during the broadcast but the next day, you guessed it, I was accosted by a negative ad that had me second guessing my support. Who do you believe? What does it take to make an educated decision?
My increasing cynicism makes me wonder who I can trust. The flyers bothered me the most. Words on top of words and all this extra mail and flyers were getting mixed in with my eye care flyer. The flyers kept graphic artists busy for months. Candidates worked on their brands highlighting the letters of their first names in stylish ways while Tina sported a new hairstyle in her campaign photos. Flyers were good for listing the increasingly important endorsements made up of trademarks representing the various groups that endorse the candidates. Making decisions based on endorsements is the lazy person’s way of voting.
The Primary Election brought out tons of candidates who at least offered some entertainment. Carrick Flynn has a movie star name but he failed to show up for the Think Out Loud debate and there were murky rumors about who was funding his campaign. Matt West, who’s slogan, “Tax The Rich Save The Planet,” does seem like a joke but it may be a necessary consideration.
I want to vote for Sharia Mayfield for Multnomah County Chair because she personally texted me. Note to other candidates that’s all it takes! I spotted her campaigning in trash ridden homeless camps and giving impassioned speeches while sitting in a rusted out junked car. The easiest candidate to support? A neighbor running for county sheriff. Who wouldn’t feel safer with the Sheriff living in their neighborhood?
The Republican candidates running for Governor seemed to make an attempt at attention grabbing somewhere between used car salespeople and personal injury lawyers. Bob Tiernan squawked about fixing the looting and rioting that has stopped for the most part. His “Results, Not Excuses” slogan sounds good on paper but what happens if he doesn’t get the results he expects.
Dr. Bud Pierce, labeled himself an outsider candidate and ran with the slogan Sane. Secure. Stable. Those are adjectives I could almost get behind but no Governor is offered a sanity test. Stan Pulliam subtitled himself in various ads as either a Conservative Republican or a Republican Fighter. His over the top anti-trans ad doesn’t make me think he has much of a chance against so many other candidates. There were plenty of other options who had interesting ideas about how they’d govern in Oregon but they didn’t have the funding to run TV ads.
How does one cut through the words to get to the ideas that offer confidence that candidates could actually make changes. I’m lucky it’s only the primary season. It’s sure to be an interesting fall when it’s time for the real election. I get that readers are scratching their heads when they’re hoping to read about mannequin fever, mail boxes or John Kennedy and I’ll get back to that. I’ve been sidetracked by the election because it’s become about how much we can all take. Yes, I’m being hyperbolic here, but what are the real results of this onslaught of information? We get tricked into voting for a candidate who may or may not be up to the job. I have to believe there’s a better way. At this point, I can only wish all the candidates the best of luck. We’ll weed out all possibility and ambition and come up with the candidates who will return to annoy us in the fall. Primaries bring out the crazies but it really only adds to the craziness and that makes democracy a bit unsettling.