Don’t believe all the hype

Even Vermont — the cradle of small-town democracy, a land devoid of billboards and a champion of third-party candidates — cannot escape the biannual circus that is congressional elections. While often ignored because of its tendency to go blue — it hasn’t cast its three electoral votes for a Republican presidential nominee in decades — the tight gubernatorial race has brought political heavyweights to the Green Mountain State. Vice President Joe Biden announced he would stump for Democratic hopeful Peter Shumlin in Burlington on Monday. John McCain campaigned for GOP senate nominee Len Britton last week. Long gone are the “this is why you should vote for me” ads, replaced by the “this is why my opponent is a Obama-Pelosi-Reid rank-and-file tax-and-spend socialist/reactionary civil-rights repealing God-fearing bigot.” Nowhere is this more prevalent in Vermont than the race for governor, in which Democrat Peter Shumlin and Republican Brian Dubie remain deadlocked heading into Tuesday’s contest. Political ads, especially ones that run in the days immediately preceding an election, have one objective: to make your opponent look like a terrible person to elicit knee-jerk reactions in voters so they’ll go out and vote for you. They take months of rhetoric and campaigning and boil them down to misleading phrases like “candidate X voted to increase the national debt” or “candidate Y voted for the largest tax increase in American history.” An ad attacking Shumlin, sponsored by the Republican Governors Association, included the zinger “people think he’s slick.” The attacks don’t even have to make sense. Take, for example, a recent television spot in which candidate Shumlin claims that “[Brian] Dubie would cut $84 million in education,” while Shumlin “supports universal kindergarten.” Does Dubie support kindergarten, too? We shall never know. Or what about when Shumlin chastised Dubie for wanting “tax cuts for the wealthiest 1,400 Vermonters.” 1,400? More people walk through the Davis Center tunnel than that every day, not to mention that it’s 0.002 percent of the population of Vermont. Sadly, these ads run so close to Election Day that citizens and the media don’t have enough time to vet them. In a commercial sponsored by the Green Mountain Prosperity Political Action Committee, several women who identified as supporting abortion rights stated that Dubie “promised to protect women’s rights,” despite the fact that Mr. Dubie is anti-abortion and affirmed to The Vermont Catholic Tribune in April that he supported changing existing abortion legislation to “protect life.” Interestingly, when searching through both candidates’ campaign websites, many of these mudslinging advertisements are nowhere to be found. Perhaps candidates don’t actually want citizens to fact-check their claims. Some political ads rely on citizens’ basic misunderstanding of how our government works, like when Republican congressional nominee Brian Doheney called out his opponent, Bill Owens, for “voting with the president 93 percent of the time.” Mr. Obama hasn’t cast a vote since 2008, when he was actually in Congress. For all the “get out the vote” campaigns that exist across the country every election season, turnout in this country remains low — WPTZ projects that 60 percent of eligible Vermonters will cast ballots this November. While there are a litany of explanations for this, perhaps one of them is that voters are simply turned off by all the negativity. If all the candidates are as bad as they are painted to be, why should anyone vote for them? Vote on Tuesday. But don’t believe the hype.