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Political Advertisements; Insisting You Choose Between Lesser Evils

Up here in the frozen Canadian wastelands, we typically find ourselves sandwiched between two different political races; the elections for Prime Minister, and the elections for the United States president. Believe it or not, the Canadian population, (at least, the population in my area,) was just as focused on the various debates and political platforms of Obama and McCain; after all, we’re directly above the U.S., it only makes sense we keep an eye on our southern neighbors.

Unfortunately, the television stations over here don’t show much in the way of American political campaign commercials, which leads me to wonder whether the politicians over there are just as immature as those over here.

Let me explain; over here, around election time, our commercials follow this typical tune.

“(Insert Opposing Party Leader Name) lost (insert large monetary amount) their last term. (Insert Other Opposing Party Leader Name) lost (insert larger monetary amount) their last term. Isn’t it time for a change? Elect (insert Party Leader Name Who’s Funding This Commercial.)”

I might be mistaken on this, but I was under the impression that the entire point of campaigning was to tell other people why your particular party was the one to vote for. Somehow, slinging mud in the direction of the other leaders, and trying to convince you that they’re nothing but pure, undiluted, baby-eating evil pretty much extends the following message;

“Hey! You know, we don’t really have a plan, or a platform, or much in the way of discipline, honor, or commitment, but those folks over there? Yeeeah, they’re much worse than us! We’re the lesser of four evils!”

The most despicable example would be the 1993 election’s commercials, funded by the Tory government, used to attack the Liberal Party leader Jean Chrétien. For those of you unfamiliar with the ad, or the candidate, Jean Chrétien suffered from Bell’s palsy, a condition that left the left side of his face partially paralyzed. This resulted in the occasional slur to his speech, and by extension facial expressions that were somewhat beyond the norm, and could even be considered by some to be bizarre.

The ad the Tories launched, the audio component consisting of ‘real Canadians’ saying things along the lines of ‘Is this a Prime Minister?’ and ‘I’d be embarrassed if he were elected Prime Minister,’ was accompanied by still images of Chrétien’s less dignified facial expressions. Although the ad was (according to those who made it,) supposed to question Chrétien’s record alone, the pictures accompanying it seemed to lay heavy emphasis on his deformity, possibly trying to capitalize on Chrétien’s low personal approval rating.

Fortunately the resulting backlash from the commercial, from Liberal and Tory alike, got the ad pulled fairly quickly, but no official apology was made for it. Ironically, it was this outrage, and a speech Chrétien made later comparing the Tories to the children that teased him as a boy, that helped catapult the Liberals to a majority government.

This is an extreme example of the sort of mentality that seems to be present in such ads; too few are those that inform you, frankly and openly, why you should vote for their party. Instead, they seem quite happy to announce that you shouldn’t vote for anybody but their group, and there’s a critical difference between the two mentalities.

If the political parties insist on spending their air time backbiting and mudslinging, instead of trying to add a layer of depth to their own party’s virtues, they’ll never bother trying to actually GET any virtues. Still, I could always try their strategy to promote my own writing… let’s see…

“You should only read this writer’s articles. Everyone else here kills puppies. And tortures kittens. They all want to kill you in your sleep. Wouldn’t you rather read the articles of someone who doesn’t want to kill you in your sleep? (I am Joel Desjardins, and I approve this blatant character attack)”

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