Candidates give voters no respect
October 12, 2004
We get no respect.
The sad passing of Rodney Dangerfield the other day shouldn’t go without recognition. Sometimes, especially in the heat of a presidential campaign, events go by so fast that we’re not sure if they really happened or we just imagined it.
I would hate to think Rodney Dangerfield would end up one of those guys who, in a couple of years, we’re asking “Is he alive, or did he die?” Because Dangerfield gave us the ultimate schmo, who works so hard he always has a bead of sweat dripping from his brow, who’s dragged himself up by the bootstraps to make a success of himself, who becomes a household name and, yet, can get no respect.
Particularly sad, isn’t it, that Rodney should leave us when we need him most. This presidential campaign is about respect, as I see it.
Not respect for George Bush or John Kerry. I’m talking about Bush’s and Kerry’s respect for the voters.
How long are we going to stand for campaigns that mislead us 10 times for every time they inform us? How long are we going to stand for campaigns that spend three times their effort bashing the other side than espousing their vision of the future?
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Political consultants tell us that voters respond to negative advertising. Frankly, I don’t believe it. Worse, I think that year after year, campaign strategists are trying to win elections at the expense of fostering deep cynicism in the process and our leaders.
As if we could keep burning politicians at the stake without singeing democracy.
Then there’s just plain ol’ common courtesy, of which the voters get none.
This week, people kept calling to tell me how sick they are of receiving canned phone calls from political campaigns.
It’s as if some political consultant sat down one day and said, “Let’s see. Millions of people have signed up for the do-not-call registry because they can’t stand to receive those annoying phone calls at all times of the day. I know what let’s do. Let’s call them!”
Political phone calls are exempt from the do-not-call list. That doesn’t make them a good idea.
First I heard from the Republicans who were being besieged by calls at home last Sunday.
One woman was so distraught, she disconnected her phone because the political calls kept coming in.
“I’m a Republican,” she told me, “but I’ll tell you what. They’re beginning to lose my vote. This is just too much.”
A couple of days later, it was the Democrats who were bemoaning the dial-a-voter campaign.
“Who gave them the OK to bombard me?” asked one.
It’s not as if the political parties – and special-interest groups and phone pollers – actually want to talk to you. They’re 30-second commercials on your telephone message machine. Have they changed anyone’s mind?
Politicians would like to have our respect. Maybe they feel like Rodney Dangerfield, because the must throw themselves at us on a regular cycle only to get abused by each other and ignored by most of the voters.
One of the enduring and endearing qualities of Rodney Dangerfield’s humor was that he steered clear of politics. He didn’t need to be topical to be funny.
“I told my psychiatrist everybody hates me,” Dangerfield said. “He said I was being ridiculous – everyone hasn’t met me yet.”
See? Maybe Rodney understood politicians better than we thought.
Meanwhile, speaking of comedians, I couldn’t help but guffaw when I read a student’s comment about Michael Moore’s visit to the University of Nevada, Reno.
“This is the first time we’ve had someone of this caliber on the political scene in Reno.”
I read that to one of my co-workers, who said, “Maybe he was talking about size.”
Couldn’t have been talking about significance. Let’s see. I recall some guy named Bush visiting there a couple of times. Vice presidents. Senators. Jesse Ventura.
OK, so let’s give the student the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was talking about out-and-out rabble-rousing, barn-burning, movie-making radicals.
Still, I’ll bet Jane Fonda has visited Reno at some point.
Barry Smith is editor of the Nevada Appeal.
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