Saturday, October 24, 2020
Oct. 24, 2020

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Jayne: Do homework before voting

By , Columbian Opinion Editor
Published:

They at least could have gotten Sam Elliott. Or maybe Morgan Freeman or Will Arnett or James Earl Jones.

The Carolyn Long campaign at least could have gotten some rich baritone to dub into the commercial over my not-made-for-TV voice. There is a reason, after all, that I am in newspapers rather than television or radio.

Instead, the Long campaign left my voice in the clip of The Columbian Editorial Board asking Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler whether she is going to vote for President Trump. And they show Herrera Beutler answering that, yes, she will vote for Trump. The ad is designed to link Herrera Beutler to Trump. Which might or might not be a wise strategy, considering that Trump won Washington’s 3rd Congressional District by 7 points in 2016.

Anyway, the odds are that you have seen the commercial. It is part of Long’s effort to unseat Herrera Beutler, a five-term congresswoman. And it is part of a fractious battle between the candidates.

Both candidates (disclosure: my daughter has volunteered with the Long campaign) are spending plenty of time and money filling the airwaves with commercials designed to portray themselves as folksy folk who can best represent the district, or portray their opponent as somebody who is wrong for Southwest Washington. Hey, that’s politics. And the campaigns’ financial disclosures demonstrate how tense this race is.

As of July 15, the most recent disclosure, Herrera Beutler had raised $2.9 million in campaign funds. Even among incumbents, who typically outraise their challengers, that is a robust amount in Washington.

Long, meanwhile, had raised $2.4 million, and for a challenger that makes her a regular Midas. The other eight challengers in congressional contests (one Washington race has no incumbent) have combined for $362,000.

So, with plenty of campaign cash on hand, the candidates are saturating the region. And in the process they are reminding us that American politics are fatally flawed.

That is not an indictment of Long or Herrera Beutler; they are simply playing the game under rules set out long ago. Instead, it is an indictment of a system that has voters making important decisions based on 30-second TV commercials.

So, Long’s campaign produces an ad trying to blame Herrera Beutler for higher prescription drug prices. “Politicians like Jaime Herrera Beutler run for Congress,” it says. “And the prescription drug industry funds her campaign. She votes to give those big drug companies big tax breaks and lets them raise prices.”

It doesn’t mention that Herrera Beutler has supported the Lower Costs, More Cures Act, and the Safe and Affordable Drugs from Canada Act, and the Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act. I don’t know whether those are worthy bills. But I will look into them rather than believing what I hear in a TV commercial.

Meanwhile, Herrera Beutler’s campaign produces an ad claiming that Long favors higher taxes (her campaign said it’s not available online, so I can’t link to it). It doesn’t mention that Long told the editorial board, “I have said repeatedly that we have to reform the tax bill with an eye toward placing working families and small businesses first, rather than major corporations.”

Again, this obfuscation is how the game is played. But in the process we all are losers.

Voting for a congressional representative or a president or a county councilor requires more nuance than can be distilled to a TV commercial. But our attention spans have been reduced to sound bites and gotcha moments that diminish us all.

Being an informed voter requires a little effort. So, rather than hearing a 30-second commercial and repeating the claims it makes, I would recommend watching the editorial board’s interview with the candidates and watching their debate, which was scheduled for after the writing of this column.

It might not be as interesting as the dulcet tones of Sam Elliott. But it will be more informative.

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