Ruth Bass: Election needs a mute button

Monday October 15, 2012


We really need shorter election campaigns. What we are enduring now is wearing out the mute button on the TV.

Prior to the present, dragged-out run (walk?) to Congress and the White House, we merely knocked out the sound for commercials with side effects.

What we couldn't stand was hearing all the horrid things that could happen to you if you were lucky enough to let some new drug cure your depression, congestion, erectile dysfunction or the inability to do crossword puzzles.

Then came the 2012 runs for office. Here in Berkshire County, like it or not, we are now acquainted with a multitude of evil spirits who live over the border in New York State.

If there's an ounce of truth in advertising, then Bill Owens and Chris Gibson and the rest of them should be ashamed of themselves and retire to civilian life immediately.

And we must guard the border, in case the losers decide to emigrate here. It's fortunate that Massachusetts only has upright, honest, mother-fearing folks running for office. Except, of course, we don't.

TV commercials for candidates are based on salesmanship in exactly the same way as those for aspirin, shampoo and dog food, but politicians don't have to list their side effects.

Anyone trying to decide which little oval circle to fill in should carefully study each candidate's potential side effects. Lots of laws, town bylaws and city ordinances have been passed over the years without anyone perceiving what is blithely called "unanticipated or unintended consequences." The same thing works for people.

Take the birth control question, for instance. If we go back to the 1950s and 1960s on matters of contraception, the unintended consequences will be simply dreadful for the economy. No one has talked about that potential fallout, but it's not magic.

If birth control regresses to where Massachusetts was at the middle of the 20th century, we'll have a baby boom. Two decades after the birth rate goes up, those babies will be right there in the job market, and unemployment will skyrocket.

We don't have enough jobs now - why would anyone want to guarantee a spike in population? Take the rest of the medical questions and consider which candidates can be counted on to stay out of the doctor's examining room, a place that ought to be as private as the confessional and the bedroom, and which ones think they know what's best for the populace.

We all have fathers and mothers - some attentive and some not - and we don't need any parenting from Congress. Abortion is not good. When the most vocal of the abortion opponents refer to pro-choice people as pro-abortion, they are misnaming them.

Few people are in favor of abortion. Still, outlawing it has at least two effects that need to be considered: More teens, still babies themselves, will have babies; and desperate women will seek abortions in a surgical black market.

One of the predictable consequences of a vote this year is how we live for the next half or quarter century. It's true that it's the president's job to appoint the Supreme Court justices, that august group of nine who make so many decisions about how we will live and how we will die.

But it's really you and I who put those men and women in place, depending on them to preserve our American dreams. We vote for those who will say yea or nay to the nominees.

It's one of our little sung and greatest powers at the polls.

Ruth Bass is author of two historical novels. Her website is _www.ruthbass.com_ (


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