Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Endorsing the Horse Race

As announced in an editorial on Monday, the SJ-R has started making their endorsements for the November elections. Not surprisingly, that liberal mainstream media outlet kicked things off by casting their lot with two Democratic candidates running for the Illinois House. Or is the real story here that the notoriously conservative newspaper again bowed to their corporate masters by endorsing a Republican in the 18th Congressional District. Either way, their endorsements will surely rankle folks on both sides of the political divide. That’s a good sign for anyone who prefers to vote for a candidate rather than the parenthesized initial that follows their name.

People who nod approvingly to every utterance that escapes Rush’s lips or take as gospel every word posted by the faithful on Daily Kos, for some reason get offended when a newspaper deigns to weigh-in with who they think will best serve the public’s interest. Having gotten used to being preached at from their comfy place in the choir loft, these party zealot’s become confused when presented with divergent points of view and attribute the dissonance to any number of faults or shortcomings harbored by those who don’t sing the same hymns of praise.

While the Web holds the possibility of opening us up to the entire spectrum of political thought, it has better served to reinforce our previously held convictions. No matter how delusional your world view, you can find someone who agrees with you and together you can mock and distrust the rest of us idiots.

That’s why it’s important, for those who don’t view elections as contests between blue and red, to occassionally wade into the media’s mainsteam for a little perspective. And I do think that newspaper endorsements, for the most part, are made with more consideration of more diverse factors than is offered by the Limbaughs and Zunigas of the world.

Not that their endorsements should be written down on the palm of your hand before you enter the voting booth. Their rationale for picking a certain candidate might provide the very thing that sways you to vote for the opponent. If so, then you have still been done a service.

Is there a reason to listen to the people who make up a newspaper’s editorial board any more intently than the five guys who hold court down at the end of the bar? After all, editorial boards are made up of people and all people have biases that slant their objectivity. You can’t assume that the J-schooled bunch is more politically aware than the PBR-fueled bunch, and the guys in the bar may have interests more closely related to your own.

The difference lies in access. Political candidates, especially those running above the local level, aren’t likely to sit down at Pat’s Tap for a little Q&A with the regulars. Those candidates do sit down with the editorial boards. Newspapers also have teams of reporters who attend every press conference and media event. They hear the things being muttered below the din of all the grandly pronounced slogans and promises. It’s almost as if the media in these instances are acting as the eyes and ears of the public - a fourth estate, if you will, to help the public check the powers of the other three branches of government.

That is exactly what a newspaper and other media are supposed to do. Obviously, some fail at this mission. But part of this failure lies not in their inability to report the news, or offer endorsements, with a reasonable degree of objectivity, but in the public’s steadfast refusal to believe anything that challenges their preconceived notions. As any grad student in communications can tell you, sometimes it’s not the message or the messenger that distorts reality, but the receiver.

As stated in Monday’s editorial, the reasons that some newspapers have stopped giving endorsements is because of the perception that it will slant future reporting on the candidates and that the media shouldn’t be in the business of king making. If you do think that all newspapers immediately bow down to the candidates they “coronate”, consider this: while the editorial board at the Chicago Sun-Times was endorsing Rod Blagojevich, the paper’s reporters were busy uncovering more evidence linking the governor to some shady dealings with his recently indicted fundraiser and intimate, Tony Rezko. This does make me question the soundness of their endorsement, but it also affirms that they are still committed to the public’s interest.

It’s amusing that if someone distrusts the SJ-R to the degree that they would respond contrarily to their every endorsement, that that person would be voting across party lines. That’s at least a step in the right direction, even if it is being made blindly.

Postscript

I have, in the past, shown my preference in certain races by not voting for any candidate. To paraphrase Geddy Lee, something I do sparingly as it tends to hurt my throat, by choosing not to decide, I still have made a choice. Some consider this derelict of my duties as citizen in a democracy. I consider it a silent protest. So is voter apathy, when borne out of disgust rather than laziness, a meaningful expression of political preference?

23 comments:

nancy said...

Dan

Here's my take. The decision not to vote, whether out of disgust or out of laziness only opens up divided observations about low voter turnout. One side will say that it is a statement of voter disgust and hopelessness and a statement of opposition to the availale candidates, while another side might lump you in with the thousands upon thousands of eligible voters who out of ignorance or lack of interest, can't move themselves to the polls. So the real problem is, it doesn't matter why YOU choose not to vote for a particular race. The pundits are going to be telling everyone else why you didn't vote. Then you really lose. Not only didn't you declare a choice, somebody else is going to speak for you about why you didn't. Until there is an option for every race that allows you to punch a box next to "I choose not to vote for any of these incompetent candidates, not out of laziness, but out of responsiblity", your vote for any candidate (even the dreaded independants) counts. It not only sends a message to the two major parties, it sends YOUR message.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Nancy,

I should have clarified my position. It’s not that I suggest not showing up at the polls, but only voting in those races where I feel there is a reasonable choice. Still, you’re right that my message isn’t being sent unless the difference between the number of ballots cast and the number totaled for the particular race I protested is great enough to catch someone’s attention in the media.

Your idea for a “none of the above” option is a good one. There’s a group supporting this option at www.nota.org. Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune did a piece on this idea earlier this week, along with a reader’s poll that found that 77.4% of respondents liked the idea of being able to vote for no one when the someones on the ballot are deemed too lacking.

Thanks for commenting,
Dan

nancy said...

Dan

Well I must say, the starry-eyed optimist in me LOVES the "NOTA" idea. What a clear way to show that not only do you care about voting, you care enough to not vote for a candidate when a reasonable one does not exist. The realist in me, however, thinks that this will never be on a printed ballot because if the Trib's numbers are correct (77%), there would be a lot of second and third tries at electing officials, which of course = $$$$$$. Too bad. I love a good grass roots movement. Maybe I'll just write the word "Not!" next to Rod and Judy's names.

Monkey Boy said...

Hmmmmm, let's look at our options:

vote for Blagojevich who is smoldering (accusations of serious impropriety) and ready to burst into flames (indictment), or;

vote for Topinka who is unproven and possibly getting in over her head, or;

vote for Whitney which is the same as throwing your ballot into the trash can and almost certainly ensures that Blagojevich wins.

The choice is simple, although painful, for me. I am less than enthused over Topinka, but Blagojevich is as big of a scumbag as Ryan was. Maybe worse. What is there to think about on this one?

It is romantic to think about "sending a message" by voting for Whitney or not voting at all. But in the face of having Blagojevich for another four years that idea is irresponsible. And just in case you are wondering, if I knew of the depth of Ryan's malfeasance before his last election there is no way I would have voted for him.

How can anyone who does not owe their job to Blagojevich seriously believe he is the best candidate? Mind-boggling.

nancy said...

Monkey Boy

Calling JBT unproven and in over her head is a bit of an understatement. I don't think she's quite as politically unsavvy as you might suggest. What about her lame deal with Cellini and company concerning the Renaissance and some other hotel in Collinsville, I think? She's not spotless and she's not stupid and I'm afraid that kind of wheeling-and-dealing gives us a little preview of what's to come with her too. I'm not so impressed with Blagojevich linking her to Ryan necessarily, but I think she's made some shady deals on her own. Trust me, I'm not going to make the same mistake I made 4 years ago voting for governor, and maybe you're right that I'm throwing away a vote if giving it to Whitney, but I disagree that I'm giving that vote to Blagojevich. That would only be the case if I were waivering between Topinka and Whitney, which I'm not. If I'm less than impressed with either of the two front runners, I'm going to save myself a little face four years from now and be happy that I didn't vote for either one of them.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Monkey Boy,

The reason why you can’t imagine why anyone would vote for Blagojevich is because you pay attention to what is going on in the world around you. It’s an admirable trait, but not necessarily a common one. A good number of voters will base their decision solely on the fantastical advertisements that popped up on their screens while watching “reality” television. In this realm, Blagojevich is a cross between FDR, JFK, and EAP. So while you try to vote for the best person, a lot of people vote for the best image.

The only positive thing I’ve heard about Topinka came from someone with good insight into the campaign and who I would consider non-partisan in his assessments. He was impressed with some of the people Topinka will put in top positions should she win. I don’t know if that is enough to earn my vote, but it’s something.

Nancy,

I agree that a vote for Whitney isn’t necessarily a vote for Blagojevich, both for the reason you cited for yourself, but also because I think that Whitney will attract a good number of Democrats who are diametrically opposed to voting Republican, but have caught on that their candidate is a creep. I also agree that being able to wash your hands of this whole mess is an attractive option.

Thanks for commenting,
Dan

monkey boy said...

Dan and Nancy,

I am aware of the Cellini deal and at the time it seemed shady. However, what came of it? Was anyone indicted over the deal? Her explanation was that it was better to get something rather than nothing. I find that plausible. Is it the truth? I don't know, but I feel comfortable with it. Besides, Cellini will lie down with whoever he can make money with, be it Ryan or Blagojevich.

As far as voting for Whitney I look at it this way. The race between Monkey Face and Topinka has tightened up (if you can believe the polls, and by the way...I hate the polls). It has tightened up to the point that I will not risk allowing a crooked liar like Blagojevich win for the right to say, "I voted for Whitney even though I knew he had absolutely no chance to win," for the next 4 years. All the while watching Monkey Face (no relation to Monkey Boy) runs roughshod all over the State. I would rather say "I tried my best," in regard to ousting Governor Dirtbag. No reasonable person could say that Topinka does not have the best chance at beating Blagojevich.

It boils down to either sending a message, or getting rid of a very bad man. You know what I am going to choose. Someone has to counteract the smarmy tactics used by the Chicago Machine to get their guy re-elected.

nancy said...

Monkey Boy

If I'm reading you correctly, you're not head-over-heels about Topinka, but consider her the lesser of two evils. Yes? If so, I would agree, but I have a hard time casting my vote for someone that I can't have a reasonable amount of faith in. It could be 2 or 3 years before Whitney's evilness comes to light. Why not get while the gettin's good?

Your pseudo-endorsements of JBT are rich with half-hearted pronouncements of her mediocrity. Read back over your posts. You never say she'll be great in the office. And I know that you don't believe that corruption in Chicago will cease if she becomes the next governor. The machine that runs the state does not discriminate based on party lines. (the Cellini/Blagojevich association is a prime example). So how is a vote for Topinka a responsible vote? Your fear of Blagojevich being re-elected should not cloud your responsibility to vote for the best candidate for our state.

And it bears repeating, while I believe that Whitney will not win, I still do not believe that I'm wasting my vote by casting it for him.

nancy said...

...and another thing. C'mon. No indictments in the hotel deals = no crooked deals?????

nancy said...

Me again. Sorry.

I just wanted to say that after looking at my last two posts, I come off as way more hostile than I intended. I certainly respect anyone who cares enough to form an educated opinion about our elected officials.

Maybe I should take up coffee in the morning, chill out and resume observer status on blogs for a while.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Nancy,

Being a blog commenter means never having to say your sorry. Besides, do you really think that you could offend Monkey Boy. He's been known to sling some arrows at other commenters. While you're concerned about your tone being a tad harsh, he's concerned if the tips of his barbs are dipped in enough poison. And I mean that with all due respect to MB.

I had someone tell me just yesterday how much they have enjoyed your input to the blog, going as far as to suggest that you start your own. So don't stifle yourself by spending your mornings watching the Price is Right, your work is needed here.

Dan

nancy said...

Thanks Dan.

monkey boy said...

Thanks Dan.

monkey boy said...

...and another thing. C'mon. No indictments in the hotel deals = no crooked deals?????

Nancy,

Read my comment again. I didn't say that. I said "I don't know," but she had a plausible explanation. It certainly sounds crooked, but until we have people being indicted left and right around her like Rod does I will give her the benefit of the doubt.

Not that you care but Whitney's membership to the ACLU is a real turn off to me....and smoking..... and fake people and.... A real turn on to me is long walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, and men who don't belong to organizations who will cut off their noses to spite their faces.

Anonymous said...

I think newspaper endorsments are a good thing. BUT with any endorsement you must consider any other advice given and allow it to help you "consider the source". The SJR endorsed Rod!!

nancy said...

Monkey Boy

What's wrong with the ACLU? Seriously, I am amazed by people who are staunch supporters of the war, who use it to say that our soldiers are defending our rights, but who take issue with the ACLU protecting rights. I'm not sure where you stand on the war, but you get my point. Admittedly, the ACLU has taken on some controversial issues (NAMBLA, whose detractors, by the way, sure have A LOT of insights about the goings on of this group. Hmmm.....)but at the end of the day, it is about protecting the rights of all, even boneheads.

I've got you all figured out, Monkey Boy. In addition to your long walks on the beach, I know you rock a little John Mayer with a nice bottle of Merlot and some Yankee candles with Monkey Girl at the end of the day.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

I found this interesting.

Eric Zorn, a columnist for the Tribune and as trusty a liberal as you'll find, wrote this week that he finally came to the realization that Topinka isn't that bad of a candidate afterall. She's socially moderate and she's done a good job of running her office and steering clear of the corruption that has felled other Republicans. Much of the negativity surrounding her is the result of Blagojevich's ads, which have distorted her record and her views.

There is really no fundamental reason that a Democrat should be averse to voting her.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/ericzorn/chi-0610310255oct31,1,2313325.column?coll=chi-news-col

monkey boy said...

Nancy,

First you must apologize for misrepresenting my previous comments. DON'T BE MISREPRESENTING ME HOMEY!

Have me figured out? Not a chance. I am an enigma wrapped inside a riddle wrapped inside several other really impenetrable things.....really.

My dislike for The ACLU? In my existence I have probably agreed with only 1 thing that they have supported in the mainstream media . In a nutshell my complaint is that they are willing to put the "rights" (which is most often very debatable whether they are actual rights or not) of a very small minority of the population over what is best for the vast majority. A prime example is racial profiling as it deals with traffic stops by police officers.

As far as what our soldiers are doing I think you have it a little backward. It is my belief that when someone says that they are defending "our rights" they are referring to the rights that groups like the ACLU have to continue to badmouth the government or other similar entity without being placed in a gulag. I have never seen anyone play the "defending your rights" card against someone who supports their actions or being.

No Merlot, no candles, no John Mayer (except for "No Such Thing" - not a bad little song). But I do enjoy a little Monkey Girl at the end of the day.

By the way, not that it makes me right because it is still speculation and it may be a political ploy, but in Schoenberg's recent column it covered the issue of Whitney taking votes away from Topinka.

nancy said...

Just when you think you have someone all figured out, they go and publicly acknowledge a fondness for a John Mayer song. You really are an enigma, Monkey Boy.

Sorry, I'm way over the profiling argument. Most bfs readers know my take on that.

Defending the rights of a "very small minority" is truly what this country's constitution is based on. Sorry if it's inconvenient for the vast majority who would really not be bothered with it. The ability and right to badmouth our government is intrisic to our democracy.

I'm not sure where I misrepresented you personally, but if you're referring to the NAMBLA comment, I will apologize if you mistook my assessment of its detractors familiarity with their actions to mean you. I most certainly did not.

I did see the Schoenberg column this weekend. I'm not convinced and I won't be held responsible if Blags wins.


Dan, I will concede that JBT is a social moderate which appeals to me. My concern is with the puppet masters and how much of her personal beliefs and goals for the state can be realized with such forces behind the scenes. I think if she were running without an elephant on her back, I might be persuaded to give her a chance, Cellini deal notwithstanding.

monkey boy said...

Nancy,

You misrepresented me when you equated my lack of concern over Topinka's roll in the Cellini hotel deal and the fact that no criminal charges were brought meaning that I was OK with the whole thing. You said "no indictments = no crooked deals?" I said "I don't know" in regard to whether it was crooked or not. It sure stunk but sometimes, especially in management, hard decisions are made that are not very popular and that many cannot ever begin to understand because they are so removed. That's how.

I must digress a little.

It is similar to the war in Iraq. The average man, like me, can have all the opinions on it they want, but in reality we know so little about the whole event that we truly are ignorant. That is why I choose to believe those who are directly involved, those who are actually doing the fighting, and those who are way smarter than me whose jobs are to advise our leaders on such topics.

I work with a guy who was in Iraq, who watched his best friend die, and in spite of that he still supports the fact that we are there because he has seen firsthand the positives that the media refuses to report. Yet we have idiots like the Hagens and Cormully, who bury their noses only in media that supports their ideology, commenting as if they have actual factual information. They even had the guts to oppose my co-worker when he wrote a letter to the editor on the topic. How insane is that? A letter writer who has never left Springfield telling an Iraqi war veteran that he is wrong?

True, his view may be skewed, yet I have numerous co-workers who have been there and none of them are crying for us to pull out. Why do you think that is? Are they stupid as Kerry suggests?

Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions. However, those who pick and choose only the information that supports their views without stopping to listen to firsthand accounts (maybe like listening to the views of a police officer, who you believe is a rational thinker, on racial profiling as opposed to what someone they may have picked up in the media) are not only ignorant but also foolish. If my co-workers all came back saying that we should get out of there immediately I would certainly support that notion.

By the way, I am not calling you a fool even though you think I am one for liking just one John Mayer song. Just one. (Other than that I think he is poopy.)

Dan & Nancy,

Thanks for allowing me to vent. Its very therapeutic.

nancy said...

Monkey Boy

I don't want to belabor this too much, but I never said you were OK with the Cellini deal, but rather maybe satisfied(?) with it since it was getting something instead of nothing. If we use that as a standard, you might even find Blagojevich was able to accomplish something, rather than nothing.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to our troops. I support them fully and whole-heartedly. The sampling of your coworkers who have served are surely an influence on your views, as they should be. Because I have no co-workers, let alone veteran ones, I do rely on some media accounts from Iraqi war veterans to form some of my opinions. Because they have chosen the media and specifically the SJR letters page to voice opposition to the war should not in any way diminish their views. I believe that all media sources can be slanted, but that should not discount any citizen's letter to such source as being slanted for political reasons any more than your coworkers' views are. I don't give much thought to most letter writers, Hagens, Cormulley, Faulkner, Franks, etc. But when a veteran writes, no matter what they are saying or what their political affiliation, I pay attention.

As for profiling, if you dug a little, you might find a brave policeman (or former mayor)who would admit that sometimes things aren't always on the up-and-up racially. Are YOU willing to listen to that? Once, among a group of friends that amazingly did not know my sensitivity to such issues, I was appalled to hear two firefighters and one police officer speak horribly about a particular race of people. I know they've seen things that I have not, but it was a big eye opener and made denials of racism just impossible for me to accept.

I never called you a fool. No more John Mayer references, I swear.

monkey boy said...

Dearest Nancy,

"I was appalled to hear two firefighters and one police officer speak horribly about a particular race of people. I know they've seen things that I have not, but it was a big eye opener and made denials of racism just impossible for me to accept."

Interesting, but when it comes time to pull one of those person's of a particular race from a fire or catch the person who stole their purse what do you think those three guys would do? I'm pretty confident I know what they would do. They would do their jobs without prejudice. If they didn't do their jobs, then you would have a valid point. Sometimes people talk because they think they have to, not because it is in their hearts. Once again, you need to walk that mile most of the time to understand what makes a particular person do or say what they do. My experience is that it isn't always what you thought it was in the beginning.

As far as what a certain Mayor said in a certain City Council meeting in order to shut certain people up who were certainly screaming at each other you can throw that right out the window. In that Mayor's recent deposition on the matter she said her comment was taken out of context just as I thought it was at the time it was said. What you had was a flustered woman who spoke hypothetically, not a person giving a factual statement. But I guess we will just have to wait until that certain trial. Once again, I am confident that the complainants will be exposed for what they are......whiners looking for a payday.

nancy said...

Monkey Boy

No doubt, the aforementioned firefighters and police officer do their jobs and do so without regard to the victims' race, color, creed, et. al. It's not the victims of crimes I'm referring to in my (sometimes nonsensical) rants.

I'm sensitive to this issue for reasons I won't go into on this blog, and I apologize if I have crossed a line. I have no personal reasons to doubt the integrity of any member of the Springfield Police Department or fire department other than maybe the stupid drunk ramblings of a few of their members trying to talk big.

In no way, shape or form do I believe that I know a fraction of what members of the police department know and I acknowledge that most stereotyping and profiling is based, at least in the beginning, somewhat on a tendency towards truth.

I knew you were going to nail me on the mayor thing. She always looks like a deer in the headlights and I'm sure she spoke without much conviction originally.

I try to stay open-minded and hear out all sides of a story. My concern is that sometimes denials of wrongdoing are immediate and automatic out of defensiveness, rather than after careful consideration of each accusation.

Yours truly with foot firmly implanted in mouth,

nancy