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Fred Trueblood: Last-minute hit mailers steal votes

Guest commentary

Posted: April 3, 2010 10:18 p.m.
Updated: April 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Political campaigns bring out the best and the worst in a democracy. On the one hand, people of integrity and public purpose emerge from our ranks to help guide important governance necessary for a sustained quality of life in our communities.

On the other hand, they also foster the dark behaviors that create an across-the-board disdain for the whole process. It is not unlike what happens at a beautiful wedding when the bar stays open too long.

The invitation creates a wholesome image of an approaching ceremony that will produce some lasting good, while the open bar inevitably lubricates a dark attraction for less-than-respectable behavior. We momentarily forget about the dress and the promises and are somehow seized in the end by misbehaving delinquents whose intended outcomes for this ceremony are different than ours.

As an exercise in darkness, last-minute political hit mailers have mutated to a breaking and entering that can steal citizens' votes like a thief in the night.

You know the routine. The glossy mailer shows up in your mailbox a few days before the election, demonizing some candidate or set of candidates with a list that is sure to resonate in some emotional way and steer our votes to some other heroic designation.
Generally they are exaggerations, things taken out of context, unflattering visuals or just plain false information. Hit mailers are designed to distract us from the real issues and steal our votes. And worst of all, they work.

How can otherwise level-headed voters be so influenced by something we all hold in such low regard? Maybe it is because we have gotten lazy, or maybe it is because we live in an environment where there is an enormous assault on our senses and we simply act on the last input we see. Perhaps we just let it slide because these messages and people who send them are merely living up to our low expectations of them. Regardless of the reason, we have relinquished our votes to others.

Last-minute hit mailers are a cowardly act designed to influence an election without revealing the real source. It is often days or weeks after the election before we find out who or what is really behind this assault on our responsible intention.

In recent years I have spent many days in less-than-one-star accommodations in Third World countries around the globe. In these rooms you learn to never turn the light back on once you have retired. It is more than unsettling to see what crawls out of the cracks when there is no illumination. Then when you do turn on the light these "creatures" scurry back to their cracks and dark places to avoid detection. Last-minute hit mailers have the same DNA.

Own your vote. Don't let someone or some group con you out of it. Hit mailers do not respect your intelligence. Make your vote be about what you know, believe and want.

In this upcoming City Council election there is a diversity of candidates who represent nearly everything you could ever want or not want in an elected official. They have Web sites, campaign workers, printed material, track records, phone numbers, media and organizations that evaluate them and lists of places where you can engage a candidate. Do that. A strong democracy values your vote.

Fred Trueblood is a Camarillo resident and vice president of SCVTV. The Trueblood family owned The Signal from the 1930s to the 1960s. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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