October Surprises: Distractions Leading Up to the Nov. 2 Elections.


The November 2 General Elections are just under 1 month away and already we see the marked increase in mudslinging.

It is a common political strategy to dig up dirt (or fabricate the dirt) on opposing candidates, a strategy that increases dramatically during the month before an election. The time draws near and it’s time to pull out all the stops.

I read an article by Thomas Sowell today called “Red Herring Politics” in which he describes an “October Surprise” as, “some sensational, and usually irrelevant, revelation to distract the voters from serious issues.”

Sowell goes on to mention the biggest media play this October, the “scandal” surrounding California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who once employed a house-keeper at $23 an hour who turned out to be an illegal immigrant. Apparently, when Ms. Whitman found out that the papers declaring the woman legal had been faked, she fired her. Now activist lawyer Gloria Allred is taking the case of the fired woman, “putting her arm protectively around the unhappy-looking woman” (Sowell).

I can understand being unhappy about losing a $23/hr house-keeping job. I’ve worked in the Restaurant, Retail, Writing, and Tutoring businesses without receiving that kind of pay. Now I’m unemployed, which is a true bummer, so I can sympathize. However, if I faked the documents saying I was able to have that job, I’d have no standing to be upset about it, let alone turn it into a legal/political matter.

Instead of  “Is this candidate guilty of a benign mistake,” a far more important question would be “can voters tell the difference between true issues and false ones?” I don’t know Meg Whitman or her policies, her agenda or her history. I do know that her ability to be Governor of California does not hinge on her firing a house-keeper for legitimate reasons.

I found another example of an October Surprise in a video interview of a man whose home burned down because he didn’t pay the annual $75 fire department fee in Obion C0unty, TN. The fire crew came and made sure the fire didn’t spread to other homes that had paid, but Gene Cranick’s home was allowed to burn. I watched this video in disbelief for three reasons.

First, I’m appalled that this could happen at all. A fire department has a responsibility to its community. I guarantee you, firefighters don’t sign up just for the paycheck. It’s grueling, dangerous, time-consuming work that saves lives. There is a deep sense of responsibility in these men who will sacrifice themselves for someone else. I don’t understand how a fire-crew could let this happen, which leads me to believe there was another factor involved that forced them to stay their helping-hand.

Second, not once in the whole video did a reporter speak with a fireman. That’s kind of an important testimony here, instead leaving it up to the home-owner and Keith Olbermann to tell the story which, tragic and unfortunate as it is, will be very one-sided.

Third, any idea what the title of the video article was? “A Preview of the Tea-Party’s America.” Surprise!! Olbermann (a well-known liberal) begins by lambasting the Tea-Party. Does anyone other than people who have a stake in the upcoming elections believe that a political party would want someone’s home to burn down? I doubt it. The Tea-Party wants less government, not anarchy. Laying this tragedy in their laps is an opportunity anti-tea-partiers jumped on with such little time left to sway the public opinion.

Another point, the law in Obion County stating that firemen couldn’t respond to a fire unless the building owner had paid the fee was passed in the beginning of 2008. The Tea-Party didn’t emerge until 2009 and hadn’t gained power until this year. Yes, the ideas and beliefs of the Tea-Party existed before now, but those ideas were held by real people.

I’ve lived in TN for 5 months now. That’s more than enough time to know that southern people (I’m from the north. If they can call me a Yankee I can call them southern people) would not stand by and watch someone’s home burn down. I can’t imagine what made the fire-department pass this law, but I can tell you the people here are pretty conservative and wouldn’t want this sort of thing to happen. No one would. I believe this is a separated incident from the norm, a singular atrocity that has been thrown in the face of a group of political idealists due to Nov. 2’s proximity.

I mention these two stories (Whitman and Cranick) not because I think illegal immigrants should be punished or because I think the Tea-Party rocks. I mention these stories to highlight the importance of staying focused on the issues that are really driving the political machine. I’m not going to vote for someone because he saved a puppy, nice as that is. I’m not going to avoid a candidate because she wears expensive shoes. Those reasons are shallow and arbitrarily selected by parties to bolster or undermine candidates who have much, much more important agendas.

So please, before you vote next month, take the time to wade through the oceans of propaganda and educate yourself on the policies that will truly affect how you live in these United States.

My sympathies to Mr. Cranick and his family, I’m sorry they had to go through this ordeal. It’s a sad example of how paper and red-tape can get in the way of doing what’s right.

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