Labor Day signals the traditional start of the campaign season, though it seems that this campaign has been going on for years. Signs for the election seemed to go up within moments after primary votes were tallied.
While all that is true (and, for the record, we once again bang the drum for a later primary, which would shorten the interminable campaigns), Labor Day brings an increased focus by the candidates, even if it doesn't have the same affect on voters. Getting their interest may be even tougher this year if the major political campaigns continue as they have begun, with attacks and counter-attacks that do little to enlighten the electorate. Take the gubernatorial race between GOP Secretary of State George Ryan and Democrat U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard. The pair has traded barbs on everything from political favors to fax machines. The TV commercials which have so far appeared have been far from enlightening. Sadly, many, many of those who go to the polls in November will rely on these 15-, 30- and 60-second ads for much of the information they take into the voting booth. That shortchanges the citizenry.
And speaking of short-changing the citizenry, there's Republican Peter Fitzgerald who wants to be your next U.S. senator. He just doesn't appear to want to get there by meeting with voters. And he certainly doesn't appear eager to do it by talking to the media. His general election campaign has begun to mirror a primary race in which he relied primarily on his own deep pockets to pay for a TV-crafted message. That would be a pity since much appears to separate him from incumbent Democrat Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun.
No wonder the electorate is so turned off. What might turn them on? Here's what would happen in our perfect campaign world: 1. Candidates in all races from the county board to the governor's office, would focus on important issues such as schools, taxes, jobs, roads and bridges. Personal attacks and negative campaigning would be eliminated. 2. Candidates would not rely only on TV ads to get a targeted message across, and would instead speak to voters at length, avoiding sound-bite campaigning.
Will that bring the voters rushing to the polls in November? Perhaps not, but it would ensure that those who bother to go would be as informed as they possibily can. Isn't that what is supposed to make this system work?
Ounce of prevention
Attorney General Jim Ryan is trumpeting the need to do more to stop sexual predators. He maintains that a law which went into affect in January doesn't go far enough.
Last week, he announced a plan that would make those who molest children stay in prison longer. What's not to salute? The longer these people are kept off the streets, the safer our children are. He also would make it a crime to solicit a minor for sex over the Internet. Bravo there, too. All are expected to be presented to the General Assembly. The best piece of his plan, however, doesn't require legislation. In it Mr. Ryan's office would help parents and children keep themselves safe while on the computer.
He plans to distribute some important Internet safety tips via the the Illinois Board of Education and Parent Teacher Association. The tips will be given to the schools, as well as being available for access on the attorney general's home page: www.ag.stat.il.us. That's earns a standing ovation.
If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, Mr. Ryan's plan would give parents a gallon of the stuff.