December 3, 2022

This opinion column was submitted by Mark Curtis, author and longtime Northern Nevada advertising agency principal/creative director.
Years ago, a colleague and I wrote in the RGJ that political consultants were turning political campaigns into mud-slinging affairs. Campaigns were less about what a candidate might do if he or she won, and more about slamming the opponent, true or not.
My consultant friends always replied, “Well, this is just the campaign. Negative works. Besides, my candidate can’t be a good (fill in the office) if he or she doesn’t win.” I didn’t buy it, but I just shut up.
They were wrong. We evolved (Sorry, totally the wrong word. “Evolved” implies progress. What has happened is not progress.)
Instead of politicians becoming more responsible once they won, they have in large part become permanent mudslingers, cowards, irresponsible professional campaigners. Sarcasm, exaggeration and dishonesty rule the day. Not only that, we are marketed to as if they and we are third-graders. (Sorry for the insult, third-graders. Most of you are better than that.) Political advertising is devoid of even the slightest bit of wit, humor or intelligence.
(Lincoln once said, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Now there was a little wit from a politician.)
I know, it’s all about money. I must get 50 emails a day asking for donations for races in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc. All I can think of is how some consultant is getting rich, and all he or she has to do is wash his hands thoroughly at night before touching pets, food or family.
Hey Republicans, sticking with Herschel Walker because taking back the Senate is all that matters isn’t okay. Hey Democrats, simply belittling Republicans doesn’t mean anything either. I’ve had breakfasts and lunches and phone calls with folks who just sigh and ask, “Why are politicians like this? We don’t feel this way. Why can’t they work together? What do they want?”
It’s easy to blame someone. Social media. Traditional media. The other side. Our side.
Immigrants. That bad governor. This bad senator. Any handy minority. The Supreme Court. The FBI. The police. Of course, the consultants plead, “Politics have always been this way.” No, they haven’t. Not this bad.
One side wants to ban abortion, even though 70% of Americans don’t want to, but the “abortion leader” says we just don’t understand. Hm. The other side coined the brilliant phrase “defund the police.” Good God. By the way, what seems like the most popular word thrown around in political circles these days? “Vote?” Nope. “Democrat?” Nope. “Republican?” Nope. “I believe?” Nope. It’s “liar.” There’s a recipe for reaching out.          
“Wait, there’s another super important poll out this week! This could mean a couple of points for us!”
I have a friend who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum. We have lunch every couple of months and we always agree who “wins” before we eat. I always learn something about why the other side feels differently than I do about some issue. Maybe he does, too. But we always agree that most politicians are nuts, especially the ones in Washington. And lunch is always good.
OK, big close: I realize most Americans don’t have much of an attention span (Including myself) and don’t read much anymore. How else could the Kardashians be stars? How else could we be obsessed with fake reality TV? How else could Tucker Carlson be a big deal? Well, at least Chris Cuomo is gone, I think.
But … isn’t it time to push the needle back the other way a bit?
Mark Curtis spent 35-plus years as a Northern Nevada advertising agency principal/creative director and periodic RGJ “Your Turn” contributor (“If I Ran The Zoo”), conceived and co-founded Artown, and published two books.
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