So Nov. 6 will soon be here, and another major election day will have come and gone.

On Nov. 7, we’ll finally know who took the prizes in numerous political fashion shows and which special interest groups bought enough favor to have their agendas become “policy.” But the arrival of that day will also bring what, to me, will be a very welcome extra: The Houston Herald can go back to being a weekly community newspaper and bear less of a resemblance to a tabloid.

The surreal displays that have for weeks and weeks appeared on the pages of your local news source are – in my estimation – a very telling example of the culture of brash behavior that has become so deeply entrenched in our society. Many people will stop at almost nothing when it comes to promoting their opinions, desires, and agendas, even if it means figuratively shaking them in others’ faces.

You see it in other areas of society, but the political arena presents the perfect chance to go all out – any many do just that. When it comes to what is popularly called “mudslinging,” virtually all forms of name calling, reputation bashing, and outright maliciousness seem to now be standard procedure, and there are apparently few, if any, boundaries in what are deemed acceptable tactics.

And it’s not even done anonymously. Almost as if it’s some sort of sign of strength, or badge of honor, people don’t even mind having their name associated with wildly creative or loosely conceived mudslinging.

Doug Davison

I’m not quite ready to start pushing up daisies, but I’m getting to be a pretty old guy. And in the fairly lengthy time since I became coherent enough to comprehend what the game of politics entails, I’d have to say I’ve never seen anything like what has gone on during this year’s campaign season (which is thankfully soon to conclude). Many of my fellow oldsters apparently agree, because I’ve heard many say that they haven’t either.

And I’m not referring to any particular level. The same stuff now seems to happen with the same frequency and intensity at the national, state and local levels. Nothing and nobody is immune.

Not that mudslinging doesn’t have a place in political advertising. To the contrary, it can at times be a valuable source of information.

I was recently talking with someone who holds an elected office and who pointed out that mudslinging sometimes turns out to be a way of finding out important aspects of a candidate’s character or past, and what we learn through “negative ads” can (and maybe should) add to our cache of knowledge about people who want our votes.

I agree. While mudslinging is often treated as a smear tactic rather than a valid tool (and sometimes borders on slander and libel), it at times can and does allow us to learn legitimate details about a candidate that they might fail to mention when describing how wonderful they are and why they are the best (or “only”) answer to our problems.

I guess what’s bothersome is the amount of it we now must endure, and how the spirit with which much it is delivered has simply gone over the top. For crying in the mud, mudslinging has – as they say in sports circles – been taken to the next level in this country.

Another person who holds an elected office recently said to me that the biggest problem with our current political system is that it prevents many people who might be our best options from seeking office. I agree with that, too. I believe our best options in most cases never become options.

After all, who can blame anyone for keeping their name out of the hat? Beside the fact that it takes about a zillion dollars to run theses days, it’s hard to imagine having your reputation and everything you stand for dragged through the mud and spat on to the extent that takes place in political fashion shows. And it’s not just you. Your family and everything else in your life might end up targeted – and truthful justification isn’t necessarily going to accompany the attacks.

It would be nice if everyone running just ran on their own merit instead of focusing on building a case against their opponent, and if everyone who believed in a cause simply promoted the merit of that cause rather than harping on the stupidity of not supporting it.

But I realize that none of that is ever going to happen. We’ve already blown that bridge up and there’s no going back.

Kind of like Mark Twain once said, many politicians aren’t prone to letting the truth get in the way of a good story. And believe me, it’s clear we live in a world of dual truth, and gray areas seem to be preferred over right and wrong (no surprise there, though; that’s certainly mentioned in many ways in many passages of the Bible).

Anyway, I’m just looking forward to making it to Nov. 7 when there won’t be two truths to quite as many issues, and there won’t be quite as much dirty laundry being hung out in plain sight.

Well, that’s enough rambling and ranting. Let’s get this over with and move on.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.  Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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