One telling barometer of the cumulative intelligence of a society is the content of its political advertising.
What better way to assess the critical thinking, comparative judgment and mental acuity of a nation's citizenry than the caliber of the debate to determine those who will lead its government?
Against that solemn backdrop, here's a representative sample of the unassailable quality of the $10 billion in political advertisements that will honor the effort of those competing in November for 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, 35 seats in the U.S. Senate and 36 gubernatorial seats.
- Oklahoma GOP Gov. J. Kevin Stitt was accused of the largest mass release of felons in U.S. history, one of whom murdered his neighbor and tried to feed her organs to his family.
- Arizona GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake told ad viewers they were "watching fake news, because they won't cover the biggest story out there … the rigged 2020 election."
- Wisconsin senatorial candidate Mandela Barnes was branded a "different kind of Democrat" because "he wrote the bill saying courts may not use the nature, number and gravity of the offenses as the sole sufficient reason for releasing the defendant."
- Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cisneros was accused of "political corruption" after FBI agents gathered evidence at his house for a DC grand jury.
Whatever happened to common sense, compromise and compassion? Is the paranoia of the Trumpsters and the Thomases and the Cruzes of the right and the Sanders and the Warrens and the Occasios of the left destined to be America's lot in life forever more?
Maybe. But maybe not.
And so, in the cause of hope and optimism, here are five moderate positions for political consultants and their candidates, regardless of party, to consider if next month's mid-terms somehow trigger a return to political sanity.
Argument #1: back off abortion.
The Supreme Court's decision to strike down Roe v. Wade was a mistake. Abortion is a loser issue, period.
Perhaps it made constitutional sense to return the abortion issue to the states, but practically, it was a disaster of significant consequence for Republican candidates throughout the land. A Republican gubernatorial challenger like Cong. Lee Zeldin in New York might have had a chance against a dim Democratic incumbent like Kathy Hochul, but now he's toast, thanks to Roe v. Wade.
Unlike Zeldin, smart Republicans should favor allowing abortions for rape, incest, the safety of the mother, etc., and otherwise, avoid the issue as much as possible. Democrats, on the other hand, owe a great debt to the Supreme Court for giving them an issue they will—and should—optimize.
Argument #2: support the police.
Democrats finally seem to realize that nobody—regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or social status—likes crime. It may be too late.
The disastrous revolving door/no bail/ignoring shoplifting policies perpetrated by do-gooding district attorneys from New York and Philadelphia to San Francisco and Los Angeles have connected Democrats to rising crime rates and lawlessness.
No self-respecting Democrat this side of Rashida Talib would any longer be caught preaching "Defund the Police." The disasters that are Portland, Chicago, Minneapolis et al., have motorized Republican momentum.
Smart Democrats have no choice but to adopt a policy of "well-funded but smarter policing" and hope for the best.
Argument #3: build back the border.
The same is true with the mess that is America's southern border.
The Biden "policy" that has uncontrollably ushered in millions of unchecked migrants is toothless, rudderless and leaderless, not to mention "feckless," if one includes—or can find—Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
Of course, the problem is intractable, with nothing but bad choices but … the Biden administration's refusal to assert itself even a little bit against the tidal wave of ever-increasing illegal entrants is an open wound for Democrats. And smart Democrat candidates will back off the showboat shenanigans of divisive Republican governors and focus, instead, on taking the border crisis more seriously.
Argument #4: confront economic reality.
Here's the cold, hard truth: No politician running for office can do a whit to revive the economy. After more than a decade of bountiful growth, we're stuck with a period of rising prices, high inflation and ultimate economic downturn.
That's the fact, Jack.
And while much of our immediate economic fate will depend more on Jerome Powell's Federal Reserve money management, Xi Jinping's social controls and Vladimir Putin's megalomaniacal arrogance—the people we vote for can at least try not to muck things up further.
That translates into limiting federal spending, avoiding tinkering with the tax laws and generally preaching patience while we experience the inevitable recession that lies ahead.
It also means …
Argument #5: adopt rational climate change.
The last great climate change denier was Rush Limbaugh, who's now dead.
Today, few can deny that the climate is a-changin', with higher winds, heavier rains, hotter hots and colder colds.
And we—and more importantly, our children and their children—have got a problem.
So, we've got to do something. The Biden climate bill—with its alternative energy tax credits, battery storage incentives, clean hydrogen and carbon capture, etc.—is a helpful start. But what's unhelpful are the zealots on either side who refuse to compromise on transitioning to lasting solutions.
Even climate-change evangelist Tom Friedman has called for an interim period where we enable greener-minded energy companies to produce more fuel, open up more pipelines, frack for more natural gas and incentive fossil fuel producers to move to cleaner sources. This is particularly urgent on the cusp of a Russian oil shutdown in Europe.
There's a good reason why trust in politicians has descended steadily over the last half-century. But a month from now, we get yet another opportunity to set things right. We live in hope.
Fraser P. Seitel has been a communications consultant, author and teacher for 40 years. He is the author of the Pearson text "The Practice of Public Relations," now in its 14th edition, and co-author of "Rethinking Reputation" and "Idea Wise." He may be reached directly at [email protected].