By Alan Resnick
I live in Michigan, the Great Lakes State. It truly is a beautiful state and a place where one gets to experience all four seasons, although spring and fall seem to last for days rather than months. And it also provides the opportunity to experience life in a Third World country whenever one ventures out for a drive on our crumbling, pothole-filled roads. But, boy, for the last couple of months, I sure wish that I was living somewhere like Hawaii or South Dakota.
Even though the votes have yet to be counted, all agree that the outcome of the presidential election in Hawaii or South Dakota is a certainty: Joe Biden and Donald Trump, respectively. But Michigan, along with Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have been identified as prized battleground or swing states, meaning that the outcome of the election remains unclear. And, with November 3rd being less than one week away, candidate stumping, political lawn signs, and political advertising have become overwhelming here.
We were besieged with nine major campaign visits the week beginning October 25th. three for the Democrats and six for the Republicans, Kamala Harris was here on Sunday, Jill Biden on Thursday, and her husband Joe will be trick or treating with President Obama on Saturday. All three events were held with an eye toward social distancing and keeping both campaigners and attendees safe. Not very flashy events, unless your idea of demonstrating unbridled enthusiasm is sitting in your car and honking your horn.
On Monday, Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr. slithered into town and held an indoor rally before what was reported to be 500 supporters. On Tuesday, his father decided to advance his herd immunity strategy by holding a super-spreader event in Lansing, the state capital and residence of Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the target of a recently thwarted right-wing kidnapping attempt. No doubt, the location was pure coincidence.
And Wednesday brought Vice President Mike Pence to our state, with his middle finger held high toward both the scientific community and the citizens of Michigan. Just four days earlier, five of his senior aides, including Marc Short, his chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus. Yet there Pence was, not bothering to quarantine for 14 days, after one of his press aides, not a member of the White House medical unit, announced that Pence would “maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC. guidelines for essential personnel.” What exactly is essential about obfuscation and sycophancy?
Thursday gave us Eric and Tiffany Trump, each working different parts of the state. And Friday brought the return of their dad, this time to the county in which my family resides. This is far too close for my tastes and health.
Fortunately, the lawn signs in my neighborhood have been tolerable. The vast majority of homes have no signs at all on their front lawns. Most homes that do display signs typically have only one or two, and, even then, they tend to be for candidates of down-ballot races such as local school board or county sheriff. Perhaps most of my neighbors feel that it is best to refrain from publicly demonstrating support for either presidential candidate during such a polarized, contentious election.
Of course, there are a few homes that are littered with signs. At one point, my neighbor, Jimmy, had 21 signs planted on his front lawn, five of which read “Dump Trump.’ Jimmy also had about ten such signs stacked up against a large landscape boulder, as if making them available for curbside pickup by anyone interested in taking them.
But what really has me wishing that I was living elsewhere right now is the bombardment of political advertising on television. It is not unusual to have two to three minutes of consecutive political ads before returning to programming. Even worse, an ad will run in support of a particular candidate, immediately followed by an ad in opposition to that candidate. Joe Biden promises to have affordable healthcare for all. Nope. Joe Biden wants to take away your healthcare. Donald Trump has brought automotive jobs back to Michigan. Scratch that. Multiple automotive factories have closed since Donald Trump became president. It is an assault on the eyes, the ears and on logic.
I wish for a simpler time, one where I could watch ads that informed me about afflictions and ailments I never knew existed and medications I could not pronounce. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear the narrator read at warp speed a lengthy list of possible side effects from a drug? My ears and eyes ache for infomercials like the one for the Navage Nasal Care Saline Nasal Irrigation Kit, a contraption purported to flush out the sinuses. I could again watch in wonder as a woman demonstrates how to operate the apparatus, placing in each nostril a tube attached to what looks like a small plastic dehumidifier, turn the unit on and wash away congestion. (It is available for about $100 in case you are on the lookout for holiday gifts and there are YouTube reviews available should you desire more information. And no, I am not a compensated spokesperson.) Heck, I even could go for seeing an ad from a local company hawking carpeting, gutter guards, or replacement windows. But I fear that I am going to pull out whatever little hair remains on my head out if I hear one more “I’m so and so and I approve this message.”
This is particularly true for the ads either approved by John James or sponsored by the political action committees (PACs) supporting his candidacy. By way of background, John James is the Republican candidate running for the position of U. S. Senator against Democrat Gary Peters, a first-term incumbent. James ran against Michigan’s other senator, Debbie Stabenow, in 2018 and lost. Reportedly, he then was considered for the position of Ambassador to the United Nations, but he lost out to Heather Nauert, a former Fox News television personality (that had to sting), before she withdrew her name from consideration.
This is what I knew about Mr. James from his 2018 run for office: he achieved the rank of Captain in the Army; he joined his father’s company, the James Group, a global chain management service company, after leaving the military and now runs the company; he is a well-known DeVos family puppet; he is supported by Donald Trump, and he wanted to abolish the Affordable Care Act.
And here’s what I’ve learned about him from his current advertising campaign: he has three young sons, one of whom is asthmatic; his wife thinks he has a big smile; he can help others scale a wall on an obstacle course; he doesn’t need this job; his 91 year-old grandmother, Annie Nicks, believes that “John-John” will protect all senior citizens because he respects and protects her; and he wants to protect preexisting conditions in any changes to healthcare legislation.
That’s all I know about where John James stands on key issues based on his television ads. Everything else is either glittering generalities (“I believe that elected officials shouldn’t receive preferential treatment”) or attacks on Peters, his rival. James has said nothing about education, nothing about gun control, nothing about a women’s right to choose, nothing about climate change, and nothing about the pandemic. And he’s awfully slippery in describing his level of support for Donald Trump (“I will support any President who does good things for the state of Michigan”). At this point, I’d be thrilled if he would go out on a limb and let the citizenry know his feelings about pancakes versus waffles.
My head hurts from all these political ads, and I fear that I am losing my ability to reason and to critically evaluate information. If I can only hold on for a few more days, I will again be able to sit on my couch watching the little red bear dance and sing “my hiney’s clean” for Charmin Ultra Strong bathroom tissue. We all need a North Star to keep us going.
Alan Resnick is an industrial psychologist with over 40 years of professional experience. He and his wife are sheltering at home in Farmington Hills, Michigan. He is passing the time by cooking, exercising, catching up on friends’ recommendations of must-see TV and writing.