If you’ve been seeing the TV commercials for candidates for Congress in New Mexico, you’ve seen two very different concepts about what voters want, divided by political party and by geography.
In Congressional District 3, seven Democrats are on the primary ballot, running for the open seat vacated by Ben Ray Lujan. I’ve seen commercials for most of them. They are smiling at the camera, bringing their families into the picture, mentioning issue priorities like healthcare, and even showing some humor.
I have not seen commercials for the Republicans running for the same seat. I presume they are saving their money for the general election.
In Congressional District 2, the southern part of the state, we are seeing a snarling cage fight between two Republican candidates accusing each other of lying and hypocrisy (the third candidate, who has not joined this free-for-all, appears to be outgunned and outspent). The winner will face the Democratic incumbent, Xochitl Torres Small, in November.
The viciousness of these commercials leads me to wonder what the candidates think they’re telling the voters.
A political commercial is not necessarily meant to be an accurate depiction of the candidate’s biography or viewpoint, or even a reliable demonstration of the candidate’s competence or ability to get things done — which, we presume, is what voters care about.
It is a statement of what the candidate thinks will make you want to vote for him or her. Even though the strategies were no doubt developed by consultants, if you think the candidates are merely following the advice of their consultants, imagine what they’ll do when they are elected and besieged by lobbyists.
Those two candidates in CD2 are competing for the same narrow band of voters, and conveying a very simple message: Conform. They kind of make you want to live someplace else.
In this time of crisis, Americans on all sides of the political divide are yearning for leadership and a positive vision. If these ads say anything about aspirations for the future of their district, it’s hard to hear between the name-calling. And it’s almost unimaginable to think their supporters could align behind the winner.
They have brought the worst kind of attention to New Mexico by attracting national news coverage.
The election is coming right up and many voters have already mailed their absentee ballots. If you have not yet decided, and you want real information about the candidates, you can look at their websites or go to the national website vote411.org.
At vote411.org, enter your street address and you’ll find information about all the candidates on your ballot, all the way down to local candidates such as state representative. The information includes statements by the candidates, responding to questions from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.
One of the congressional candidates in CD2 thought so little of the value of your opinion that she didn’t bother to respond.
The nastiness of this campaign is a hint of what voters will be battered with in the general election – adding to the despair of the most difficult year in a century.
Among the Democrats in CD3, mudslinging has not made its way to the public airwaves. Though some backbiting may be going on behind the scenes, when the primary is over and only one candidate wins, there’s room for rivals and supporters to smile and do the 2020 equivalent of shaking hands.
No doubt, massive advertising for the general election will start too soon after the primary is over. Most campaigning will be through media because the virus will continue to keep us from large gatherings. It’s probably a vain hope, but candidates have the choice to persuade us to want to vote for them rather than being disgusted.
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