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Omdahl: Election campaigns have become routines

By Staff | Oct 31, 2014

If nothing else, the 2014 election campaign confirmed the fact that campaigns are in a rut. Very little changes from election to election, especially the behavior of those with dogs in the fight.

First, it is routine for everyone with a poor showing in the polls to dispute the results. In 2014, the polls gave North Dakota Democrats a poor report, resulting in loud protests and counterclaims.

Though appearing to be irrational, this response is necessary or the campaign would be over before the election. Besides, there’s always the hope that an opposition candidate would drop dead after the ballots are printed.

Second, it is routine to see a flurry of new ideas and promises from incumbents, as though they weren’t allowed to propose anything new until confronted with the possibility of defeat. Apparently, the quest for votes stimulates imagination.

Third, it is routine to see strong appeals to parochialism by pointing out that out-of-state groups are meddling in the campaign.

Both sides of Measure 5 (conservation) received gobs of money from out-of-state interest groups and both sides criticized the other for accepting the tainted money. The issue boiled down to whose out-of-state money was most corrupt theirs or ours.

Fourth, it is routine to hear the meteorological news that the sky is falling. The alarm sends the uninformed citizens running for the brush.

Measure 3 (higher education) to abandon the 8-member Board of Higher Education for a 3-member management team was claimed to create serious accreditation trouble for the universities. Doubt is also a useful campaign tool.

Fifth, it is routine to take advantage of voter ignorance. The campaign strategists generated tons of misinformation, exaggeration and distortion with the uninformed voter in mind. Unfortunately, a majority of voters don’t inform themselves enough to ward off those who would exploit their ignorance.

Sixth, it is routine for the initiative and referendum to be used by interest groups to second-guess the Legislature. Apparently, the Legislature bungles public policy just often enough to make citizens believe they need to protect themselves with a back-up system.

The Legislature doesn’t even trust itself when it locks surplus money in the state constitution beyond the reach of future legislatures. After all, this is the last Legislature blessed with wisdom and all future legislatures will be run by jerks.

Seventh, it is routine to use fear rather than reason to drive voters to the polls. Without a stimulant, our passive citizenry would just as likely go hunting or fishing on Election Day.

On Measure 5 (conservation) the rumor that the governor, attorney general and commissioner of agriculture would conspire to use the conservation program to buy 25 farms a year frightened a lot of farmers.

Eighth, it is routine to incorporate the propaganda technique of transfer by using false labels. Because the term “out-of-state” has a bad connotation, the out-of-state meddlers took it in the shorts in this campaign.

Ninth, it is becoming routine to have religious issues appear on the ballot across the country. Church leaders who can’t convince their parishioners to be good Christians are turning to state and national governments to get those unrepentant sinners in line.

Tenth, it is routine for campaigns to waste gobs of money. Even when candidates are leading with 70 percent of the likely voters, they will spend additional thousands to make it 80 percent. The lesson is that if you don’t have money to waste, forget about politics.

In spite of the routines, we can’t help but admit that the way we do democracy in North Dakota is just great.

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