Driving around South Florida highways like Interstate 95 these days, you’re likely to see anti-Obama billboard ads making the following sly, simplistic appeal:
Obama supports Gay Marriage & Abortion. Do you? VOTE REPUBLICAN
Thanks to a new “Super” Political Action Committee, Republican Union PAC (RUPAC), the billboards went up last month in Florida and four other battleground states that President Obama won in 2008: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Because of the Supreme Court’s now-infamous 2010 Citizens United ruling, RUPAC can collect unlimited donations without naming the sources of those donations during the course of the election, if ever.
So RUPAC got a million bucks from a single “unnamed donor” and in August launched what could be considered an “advertising opening act”. The Main Event for RUPAC involves spending at least 15-million more “donor” dollars paying out-of-towners from around the country to travel to battleground states like Florida and help with GOP “Get Out The Vote” activities. Get Out The Values Votes, that is.
And so these billboard ads are aimed squarely at Republican strategists’ preconceived notions of who the still-undecided Independent and Democratic voters are; working poor and middle class people with strong religious beliefs, especially Democratic-leaning Catholics who traditionally reward the party’s history of political/legislative struggle and achievement for people just like them, with their votes.
The starkly cynical messaging in these RUPAC ads now seeks to narrow the focus of these good people all the way down to only two issues, egging them on to cast votes based purely on their personal feelings about Gay Marriage and Abortion, casting them in what they hope will be the scene-stealing role of “Values Voters”.
But perhaps in Florida and other electoral battleground states where these billboards are appearing, the entire notion of “values-driven” voting will begin to take on new meaning. Perhaps, good people of all (and no) religious faiths and political persuasions will not simply see, but will start to see through these kinds of ads.
Forget that the RUPAC billboard doesn’t even mention, much less ask you to vote for President Obama’s actual opponent (what’s his name again?). Well don’t forget that, because it’s as telling as telling can be. But what’s more important is to start talking directly to each other about the values expressed in and by these ads; about how narrow-minded, negative and divisive they are.
Then, we can agree to disagree if and as needed, with civility, rather than being pitted against one another in anger as so many partisan political spin doctors and pundits would prefer.
For starters, one thing we ought to be able to agree on about the billboard in question, is its degree of accuracy.
The statement “Obama supports Abortion” is false. He is a religiously observant Christian who would never, ever “support” abortion in and of itself. The truth is that what President Obama “supports” is each individual woman’s legal right to make her own painfully difficult choice, about whether or not an abortion is the right thing to do in her very personal and particular case.
Isn’t supporting and protecting every woman’s freedom of individual choice about what she does with her own body a core value worth basing a vote on, more so than any divisive disagreement about abortion itself?
The same line of reasoning applies to the Gay Marriage issue. The president has never said he “supports” gay marriage. What he has said is that he supports the legal right of any 2 Americans to honor and embrace the institution of marriage by being wed, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.
Isn’t standing up for the legal right of each and every one of our family members and friends to get married to whomever they choose a core value worth basing a vote on, more so than any divisive disagreement about what equally exercised rights to wed will do to the institution of marriage itself?
The more that we all reject manipulative “values voter” messaging and advertising appeals created by pandering paid political consultants, and instead discuss our differing values amongst ourselves, the better off we and our Democracy will be.