editorial

Buyer—ahem, voter beware

Casual thoughts when everything matters so much

By LAURIE STUART
Posted 10/28/20

It’s ironic to me, as I reel from the plethora of political messages, that it is the foundational law that makes our democracy that has the capacity to destroy it.

What law?

The First …

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editorial

Buyer—ahem, voter beware

Casual thoughts when everything matters so much

Posted

It’s ironic to me, as I reel from the plethora of political messages, that it is the foundational law that makes our democracy that has the capacity to destroy it.

What law?

The First Amendment.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

I’ll say it again: Congress shall make no law in the establishment of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble and to petition the government for redress.

Five items. No laws.

And how does this affect our democracy?

Consider the Truth in Advertising laws administered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The laws exist to protect consumers, and they give the FTC wide latitude to regulate. This relates to all types of advertising: traditional TV, radio, print, as well as internet, social media, digital and search advertising.

If the agency deems an ad false or misleading, they can fine a company, take them to court and even pull their ads from the air. But, according to Mary Engle, the associate director of Advertising Practices at the FTC, the FTC can only regulate practices in commerce.

“We don’t have jurisdiction over activities that are fully protected by the First Amendment,” she said in an article published by GBH, Boston’s public media corporation.

So, in terms of truth in political advertising? That falls under the freedom of speech category and, therefore, is not regulated. (Oh, there’s disclaimers that need to added, reports that need to be filed. Paperwork.) But in the end? Politicians can say whatever they want to say and there is little recourse. They can misquote, misguide, and out-and-out lie about their opponent or themselves. All of it is protected speech.

So where does that lead us?

It kind of leaves us hanging: thinking one thing is true when, actually, it might be the opposite. It’s not the politicians who will save democracy. It is us. All of us.

So how do we decide for whom to cast our votes?  How do we orchestrate a coming together when we know it’s all coming apart?

What’s a citizen to do?

It’s simple: Live the democracy. Be the democracy. Protect the democracy.

Vote.

Vote with your heart.

Trust the system. Do your own research.

Become even more committed to being counted. Become even more committed to expressing your views thoughtfully. Start warming up to the idea that we must listen to others, especially those we don’t agree with.

In the end, we have to carry the torch of democracy together.

It’s our collective future. Vote.

(If nothing else, let us have a robust election.)

Vote with your heart and not your hate or fear. Set your ideologies aside.

Vote for democracy, however flawed and challenged.

Vote.

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