Friday, October 30, 2009

Propaganda In Your Mailbox

Every day for the last few weeks a pleasant surprise greets me whenever I open the mailbox: colorful brochures from the New Jersey Democratic State Committee and Cape May County Regular Republican Orgnaziation.

Political mailers incurred my wrath several years ago. I absolutely fucking hate them. I loathe every piece of these brainwashing bits of partisan propaganda. They absolutely represent everything that’s wrong with the political process: the money wasted on opposition research firms, PR hacks and partisan committees to persuade people into voting for candidates through confusion and fear.

Republican Assembly candidates Michael Donohue and John McCann are facing incumbent Democrats Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, who are running for re-election at a time when being a Democrat in New Jersey is about as popular as being Jewish in the rural south. Or in Germany during the 1930s. Or in medieval Europe. You get the idea.

Albano and Milam are facing an uphill battle with a hostile electorate who blame their economic woes on another Democrat, Gov. Jon Corzine.

Corzine is very unpopular in southern New Jersey, a Republican stronghold, in a district where Albano and Milam represent.

So it’s no surprise when two unpopular Democrats running for re-election are challenged by two Republicans who keep mentioning the fact that the two Democrats are, in fact, unpopular. Donohue and McCann have hammered Albano and Milam on their lack of a substantial record, but they’re also touting ways to fix the state’s financial woes and advocate cutting state government.

So when a flurry of mailers from the Democrats explain, not what Albano or Milam would do if elected, but about Donohue and McCann’s personal dealings, it’s obvious that any intelligent, substantive dialog will be substituted for inane fluff.

The Democrats are employing a tried and true political campaign tactic: sling enough shit and see what sticks.

These are what I call “Ugly Mailers” because they focus on the negative of their opponents and make me want to angrily club a baby seal. I’m distinguishing Ugly Mailers “D” for Democrats and “R” for Republicans below.

(D) Ugly Mailer 1: Blurry photographs of McCann and Donohue with bars across their eyes like they’re both in Swedish pornographic movies. The text reads “Michel Donohue has held as many as five different government jobs at the same time, earning three taxpayer-funded pensions. While our families struggle with high property taxes, Donohue was busy collecting $700,000 in taxpayer dollars and padding his retirement at our expense.” Continuing, the text reads “John McCann and his Trenton cronies had Governor Corzine appoint him to a cushy part-time job overseeing your property taxes In exchange for attending a few meetings a month, McCann is eligible for health benefits and a government retirement plan funded by taxpayers.”

McCann is a member of the county tax board. And if Corzine appointed McCann to this board, isn’t the governor to blame?

(D) Ugly Mailer 2: Two strawberry ice cream cones squished together on the front cover with a black and white head shot of Donohue and the text: “Michael Donohue has been double-dipping the taxpayers.” The ice cream motif (double dipping, get it?) continues on the inside with a photo of the same ice cream cones melted and a lovable kid cramming an ice cream cone into his mouth, with ice cream all over his face. Though Freudians could have a field day with the imagery, it’s pretty tame…and lame. According to the mailer, “Michael Donohue wants to be in the General Assembly – but he’s already on the public dole. According to The Daily Journal, Donohue held FOUR taxpayer-funded positions in 2008. He’s not just double-dipping – he’s quadruple dipping!” I’m sorry, but you lost me with the photographs of yummy ice cream. I don’t want to read the rest of the mailer. I want ice cream. I mean, who doesn’t like ice cream?

(D) Ugly Mailer 3: A photograph of a man in a suit from the neck down, holding a stack of $100 bills. The text reads, “One word describes Assembly candidates Michael Donohue and John McCann: Greed.” The mailer explains that Donohue and McCann have “scored seven government jobs and five government pensions,” what is describes as “a colossal waste of our tax dollars.” Two excerpts from The Daily Journal of Vineland add legitimacy to the claim Donohue worked as a municipal prosecutor in three towns and McCann is on the county tax board and receives a salary and is eligible for health benefits and state retirement program. If the Democrats, who have control of the legislature and senate, haven’t prevented appointees like McCann from receiving these governmental perks, they shouldn’t accuse McCann of any wrongdoing.

(D) Ugly Mailer 4: A photograph of Donohue and two big hands holding a fistful of money: $5 bills on one hand and $10 in the other. The text on the front, “Michael Donohue has been Double Dipping…” Wow! He’s been pilfering $5 bills and $10 bills? What’s the problem? The interior photograph contains a photo of a man turning his pocket inside out, the graphical symbol of abject poverty.

(R) Ugly Mailer 1: A blurry photo of Trenton’s capital dome with the text “New Jersey Has Highest Property Taxes In The Nation. Trenton Democrats have failed New Jersey.” On the inside we get information cited from the New Jersey Department of Labor, the 2010 state budget and from Namely, “Trenton Democrats offer same old politics that created the worst New Jersey economy in 17 years,” “Trenton Democrats offer more new taxes and fees that have given New Jersey the highest tax burden in the nation,” and “Trenton Democrats offer more of the wasteful spending that had saddled New Jersey with a $10 billion deficit.” So the shocking revelation here is that Trenton Democrats are bad. What about Democrats in other parts of the state? The mailer concludes with portraits from the candidates: Chris Christie for governor, Leonard Desiderio for freeholder, and Donohue and McCann for assembly, just in case you want to identify these guys before you vote for them.

(R) Ugly Mailer 2: A photograph of a young woman with her eyes closed and her fingers in her ears. The text reads, “With all the noise in the New Jersey elections, don’t lose sight of the facts: Trenton Democrats raised your taxes.” How can one lose sight if their eyes are closed and fingers in their ears? The back of the mailer reads, “On November 3rd, don’t let your vote go to waste.” Inside, we get a Wrong Way sign, along with the following: “New Jersey is headed in the wrong direction. The problem is, we can’t trust Democrats and Independents on taxes. Higher taxes will only make things worse.” Saying higher taxes make things worse is like saying sticking a moray eel in your pants is a bad idea. No shit, Sherlock. Secondly, this mailer goes after Independents as well as Democrats. Independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett (whom our paper endorsed, by the way) has rising poll numbers. He’s a long shot by far, but his candidacy is causing Christie headaches because Daggett is viewed as the spoiler and could ruin Christie’s chances by stealing voters from him. So, the GOP is now fighting a war on two fronts, hammering Corzine and Daggett. This is weird because Christie dismissively referred to Daggett’s candidacy as “an amusement” and shrugged him off as a non-viable candidate. Yet by acknowledging the Independent as a threat through this mailer, Christie is showing just how full of shit he actually is. But that’s old hat in politics. Say one thing, do something else.

(R) Ugly Mailer 3: A curious mailer sent by the National Organization for Marriage, Inc., a Washington DC-based group, features a photo of a wedding cake topped with two groom figurines. The text reads menacingly, “Are your kids ready to learn about gay marriage?” Gay marriage? When the fuck did this issue become part of the campaign? I’ve never heard any candidate talk about this issue willingly this year unless we prodded them on it. When we interviewed the Republican assembly candidates, they strongly condemned it. McCann even said that social issues were not part of this year’s campaign. So why am I getting a mailer for it? On the inside, the mailer shows a photograph of a scared child in his mother’s arms, wide-eyed and frightened. The text reads, “Legalizing gay marriage affects your family. The New Jersey State Legislature is considering a bill to legalize gay marriage in our state. If enacted, this plan would have serious consequences for families and kids in New Jersey. Massachusetts schools use the book King and King to teach second graders that boys can marry other boys. And in California, a public school took first graders to a same-sex wedding, calling it a ‘teachable moment.’”

Of course Massachusetts and California are scary places with intellectuals and open-minded liberals. No wonder why Sodom and Gomorra exist there. But it gets weirder. The back of the mailer reads, “Assemblymen Albano and Milam are expected to join with Governor Corzine to ignore New Jersey’s real problems and spend their time legalizing homosexual marriage.” First of all, Albano is opposed to gay marriage. He told us so. And I don’t think these guys will drop everything and rush to whatever gay marriage legislation is lingering in the wings and endorse it.

This mailer is the worst kind of propaganda. Released four days before the election, the Republicans, bereft of any specifics or message other than “I’m not the other guy” are showing how desperate they are. So they trot out the gay marriage wedge issue, which worked so well for them in the past. Scare the shit out of God-fearing homophobes by calling your opponents supporters of “homosexual marriage.”

Of all the Ugly Mailers, this one is the ugliest. This mailer is uglier than Kathleen Turner. If you’ve seen her lately in Californication, you know exactly what I mean. If Donohue and McCann have any shred of decency, they’d condemn the mailer. Chances are, they’ll play the good little docile sheep and agree with their party masters. What this ad shows is the utter hypocrisy of the GOP. The mailer should have read, “We’re Republicans. We’ll suck cock behind closed doors, but publicly we’ll condemn gay marriage as destructive to children and families.” Why don’t the Republicans really tell children the truth, that marriage is a soul-crushing, torturous existence where a couple spends year after year in a never-ending routine of spiteful finger-pointing, hoping the other one drops dead so they could be free.

Sounds an awful lot like politics, doesn’t it?

1 comment:

Ari said...

November 1, 2009 my family received a robo call expressing that Albano and Milam do not support gay marriage. I believe this is a direct comment against the Republican mailer.