Getting Our Fill
The impact of campaign ads, food options and cable news
By now, you have seen or heard more campaign ads than you care to count. Brace yourselves, because it’s about to get even uglier and it won’t let up until Election Day. It’s enough to make you wish the remaining candidates would consult also-ran Democratic candidate for governor Tim John. John’s online campaign commercials, including one reminiscent of a telenovella in which he spoke only in Italian and declared his passionate love for the state, were a highlight leading up to the primary. But research shows negative ads work, so that’s what we’ll see more of in the coming weeks. Do me a favor, please? Don’t let your emotional response to any political ad—positive or negative—be the deciding factor in who gets your vote.
The latest round of the U.S. Census shows Dane County’s population grew by 50,000 over the last decade. If you think about it, our county is kind of like a cranky teenager as it bumps up against a half-million people. We’ve got inner conflict, a lot of demands for our attention and we don’t drive very well either. The upside? Something good could come from our growth spurt: more representation at the State Capitol. We stand to gain one seat in both the state assembly and senate after redistricting, which state law requires every ten years. That would bring the number of lawmakers with at least some of Dane County in their districts to twelve. I hope this expanded delegation, which could include an additional Republican or two depending on how lines are redrawn, works together to strongly represent the county’s interests without forgetting what Peter Parker’s uncle said in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
War? What War?
It’s another sign of just how bad the economy is: the war in Afghanistan likely won’t generate much interest among voters in the upcoming election. Sadly, that means some candidates can get away with soft positions or having no apparent opinion at all on the war if they keep up the drumbeat on jobs. No one has all of the answers on Afghanistan, but at the very least we must demand informed engagement and the desire to come to the best decision, not the most politically advantageous one, from the people we send to Congress.
A quick note on the Wisconsin State Journal’s Chris Rickert, who started doing a few months ago what would give most writers, including me, nightmares. Rickert is writing a column for the newspaper (gulp) four days a week and tackling a broad range of topics to boot. He showed another sign of bravery, too, by admitting in his debut column that he is from Illinois.
One of my favorite stories I wrote as a reporter for the Associated Press was about The Onion, the satirical newspaper founded here in Madison. The paper has since moved its headquarters to New York and continues to bring the funny headlines. A recent favorite: “New Law Would Ban Marriages Between People Who Don’t Love Each Other.” The Onion’s work is often over-the-top and obviously meant to be a joke, right? So it stopped me short to learn that recently a three-year-old video from the Onion News Network made the rounds on the Web, posted on blogs and via Twitter and Facebook by people who thought it was a real news story about the government imposing martial law. Granted, The Onion co-opts traditional newswriting and presentation for effect, but it should be noted the video in question included a fake congressman warning of impending martial law and zombie attacks. Has cable television news made some people completely unable to separate fact from fiction?
Food for Thought
A few years ago, as our oldest son was preparing to eat table foods, my husband and I took stock of what was in our pantry and refrigerator and didn’t like everything we saw. We committed to change: more fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, nothing with high-fructose corn syrup if we could help it. The first trip to the grocery store under our new regime was striking for two reasons: it took twice as long and it cost a lot more. I thought of that first shopping trip when I saw the most recent figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showing one-fourth of Wisconsin residents are considered obese. How many of the people in this group have access to healthy food or the ability to buy it? As our economy continues to sputter, it’s reasonable to think more families will be forced to make cheaper, less healthy choices at the store, because that’s the only choice they have.
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