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The End of 'Silly Season'
By Damon Circosta
Published: Nov. 4, 2010
RALEIGH - Pundits often call the week before an election “silly season.” On those final days before ballots are cast rumors run rampant, unsubstantiated charges fly and tawdry TV ads flood the airwaves.
This year the stories that dominated the political news in the week preceding the election were: a political party’s claim that voting machines were rigged; a candidate’s claim that actor Morgan Freeman taped an ad for him for $4,500 (instead of his usual $1 million fee); another candidate getting arrested for two intoxicated driving incidents on the weekend before Election Day; and scores of politicians launching last-minute attacks with dubious assertions.
Our public discussion has devolved into mudslinging, name-calling and overly exaggerated claims. A scant word was said about what anyone would do if they were elected.
You might think that the final days before an election would be a great time to have an earnest discussion about public policy, but that doesn’t motivate people to go to the polls. Silly season grabs us and much like a train wreck, it’s awful to watch, but it’s awfully difficult to look away.
The outlandishness of silly season makes our politics look more like a soap opera than a democracy. And all of the ranting and shouting doesn’t really help us make an informed decision.
It’s a big reason so many of us are disgusted by politics. Some of us want government to do more, others want government to do less, but lost in all of this craziness is that everyone wants government to work efficiently.
Here in North Carolina, control of both chambers in the legislature will be in Republican hands. They ran on a platform of change, much like the Democrats did two years ago. If they are smart, the Republicans will learn from those who came before them.
Voters are not happy right now. Part of their unhappiness is related to the economy, but a big source of voter unrest is that, regardless of who is in charge, our government seems to be more preoccupied with silly season than with governing. Mere hours after the election, the pundits have turned their eyes towards 2012 and the next round of electoral madness.
But before we get to 2012, there is governing to do. Both nationally and at the state level, conservative legislators are going to have to work with Democratic chief executives. More than any specific policy agenda, voters are looking to politicians who can demonstrate the ability to solve problems and work together.
Let’s face it; there are real differences to be worked through. Conservatives and progressives have very different notions of what should be done. Compromise is not always possible and we elect people to stand up for the things they believe in.
But even though concessions cannot always be made, a little bit more cooperation could go a long way in getting our politics back to sane. No one is asking our elected officials to abandon the causes they believe in. But is it too much to ask that when we advocate for those causes that we do so respectfully? Do we really think that those who may disagree with us on some policy are really out to ruin the country?
In the short run the nuttiness that makes up silly season gets us to pay attention to politics in a way that serious, and sometimes dull, conversations about public policy does not. But in the long run, the silly season is turning our politics into a second-rate reality show, and there could come a day when none of us wants to watch it.