When I teach sampling in my statistics classes, I often talk about the role that Ohio has traditionally played in determining the outcome of presidential races. This was something that I was blissfully unaware of growing up on the East Coast, where I was led to believe that anything that mattered in the country happened east of the Hudson River. Now that I live in Ohio, I realize that my adopted state has often played an important role in determining the final outcomes of presidential races, and that this year’s race promises to be no different. Indeed, those of us who live in Ohio cannot turn on the radio or TV these days without encountering ads from both sides of the isle. This is particularly annoying to those of us who tend to watch or listen to the news, as such programs are where political ads are being concentrated at this point in the race.
I trust am not the only one who thinks that the present campaign has grown unusually nasty unusually early in the campaign season. As someone who works with ideas for a living, I am finding few real ideas being shared by either side, and those that are shared are not always passing the standards I would hold for my own students on essay exams.
But it is not just the commercials that are getting very nasty very early; it is also the behavior of some of the people around me. A few weeks ago I found myself at a gathering where somebody started talking about the upcoming presidential election. I was in another room, chatting with the other mothers about mother stuff; school starting and our children’s participation in sports and how the summer was going so far. Out of nowhere, one of the men stomped into the room, furious. He said that someone had said something that offended him in the discussion, and he begged us to go try to get the man to be quiet (knowing him, I honestly wonder if anyone could do that!) To give him credit, the man left the conversation rather than inflame it more, and I was left getting a lecture in economics from someone who had read some things about the topic on the internet. I have to give myself at least as much credit for walking away from that conversation as I give that man for walking away from the first heated conversation. As I left, I wondered if I should have been more vocal about the topic, since, after all, studying economics is what I do for a living. However, since I see these people often, I think that deflecting what could have turned into an ugly argument was the wiser thing to do.
Even if one was to turn commercial TV and radio off completely, it is almost impossible to avoid the political vitriol that is overtaking Ohio these days. There are bumper stickers and buttons, not to mention “robo calls” during dinner time from the “candidates” themselves, or at least from recordings of the candidates themselves. And those 72 e-mails that I got last weekend? At least half of them were political ads, asking for money that I don’t intend to give. Instead, we take the approach of supporting local candidates who we know personally and can work for directly. In the mean time, I take comfort that this will end soon, and am hopeful that those who do get elected will do a good job in the positions to which they are elected.
A few months ago, we passed through Seneca Falls, New York on the way to the East coast. As we did, I told my daughter about the struggle for women to be able to vote in the U.S. I hope that she does not take the current animosity among politicians as being the end product of that important movement.
And so, I am wondering, readers, if there are any of you who have lived through elections in fellow “swing states” who have ideas on how to survive these next few months. After all, the news programs tell us that the upcoming election “has yet to heat up.”