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Dust on the Dashboard: Tune out the negativity and become an informed voter

Dust on the Dashboard: Tune out the negativity and become an informed voter

It is the silly season of politics again. It seems like we had an election just a couple of months ago rather than a couple of years ago. I guess it only seems like it was just yesterday because I am still trying to get over the sheer volume of campaign propaganda I got from the last go-round.

I guess all of it is good for our TV, radio, people who design ads, print shops, and those who create and distribute all the ads, fliers and letters. But to the rest of us, it is just stuff to be ignored or to be placed in the round file.

I once thought that maybe the best way to do it would be to pass along the money spent on mailers and fliers to each person. Then the candidate with the biggest contribution to my cause would get my vote. OK, obviously I am joking because if the truth were known, I probably would react the other way and the one who bothered me the most would be the least likely to get my vote — especially those who insist on making phone calls like the one I just got.

I marvel at the sheer volume of the ads. Ads fill up my mailbox, stream constantly on radio and TV and come as annoying phone calls, like the one I just mentioned. And I am aghast and dismayed by the tone of the ads and the negativity.

Last night I saw three ads in a row that went something like this: Candidate A is the law and order choice in the upcoming election, he will keep your family safe. The very next ad was from Candidate B saying that Candidate A was a depraved criminal who breaks the law. That ad was followed by an ad from Candidate A saying Candidate B was lying about Candidate A in the previous ad. No wonder people are fed up with elected officials.

You do not know who to believe, if anyone.

I have an idea. How about making an ad that only talks about your ideas and what you will do if elected, and not about your opponent’s faults and mistakes?

I know. And maybe pigs will fly.

The truth of the matter is that negative campaigning works, and it is because of each of us. We do not take the time to find out where our candidates stand on issues or to do real research. Instead, we listen to short bursts — soundbites — because that is all we have time for. I wonder and worry about how many voters make their decisions based on the negative ads.

Do not get me wrong. I firmly believe that each of us must take an active role in elections. What that role is, is up to you. At the very minimum, do some research on the candidates. Look at the incumbent’s voting record and find out why they voted like they did. Do not let the other candidate pick and choose and take a vote out of context.

Then go to the candidate’s website and see what they say about issues that matter to you. Better yet, go to a meet and greet with the candidate and ask the questions yourself. You can learn a lot from meeting them in person. If they are not out in your community, that also says a lot about how they will govern if elected.

The next level of involvement is to help with a campaign. That can be as simple as putting up yard signs. It is an easy way to get involved, but it can be powerful to let your neighbors know who you support. On the flip side, if your neighbor puts up campaign signs, be courteous. They are showing their support and you should respect it, even if you might not agree.

That leads to the next thing you can do, and that is to talk to your friends and neighbors about which candidate you support. Have those friendly, polite discussions. That is what politics done right is all about. No one is completely right or wrong and everyone is allowed their opinions.

I don’t even begin to think I speak for anyone but myself, but I am disappointed in the tone and negativity this campaign season. I realize it is only going to get worse as we get closer to November. I wish we could debate issues and ideas and make our decisions on the merits of them.

We need to find candidates who share our beliefs and ideals and back them. The bottom line is that we all need to become more involved in the process. In the meantime, it’s OK to turn the volume down when the ads come on.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension educator for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at


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