Pondering this year’s races

Sept. 2, 2016 | G. Michael Dobbs

I’m on vacation when you read this column. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while.  

During this election there appears to be a greater adhesive quality to statements made by candidates. In other words, what they say seems to stick longer, even if the statement is seen to be faulty, an exaggeration or a lie.

Perhaps it’s the nature of media today that people tend to remember the first version they see online or in social media. Under the veil of objectivity or of stripping away the prejudices of mainstream media, folks tend to give credence to items they should really vet for themselves.

Now when talking about how false or misleading statements and their place in the political process are let’s go back to the Grand Voodoo Master of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

One of Adolph Hitler’s closest associates, this is what Goebbels had to tell an audience in 1928 – several years before Hitler seized power: “The point of a political speech is to persuade people of what we think right ... We do not want to be a movement of a few straw brains, but rather a movement that can conquer the broad masses. Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.”

If he was alive today – and of course, not a Nazi – he would be much in demand in the marketing world.

The old story of telling a lie long enough can create a truth is the bedrock of all too many political campaigns – left, right and center.

Considering the heightened adhesive factor, the role of the voter and his and her responsibility to their community and themselves has greatly increased.

We have several races facing us in Hampden County that mean a lot to our quality of life, not the least of which is the role of sheriff.

In this race three candidates are in the Sept. 8 primary. Michael Albano has no experience running a jail, but a lifetime of experience in various aspects of government, including being the mayor of Springfield before its financial crisis. Tom Ashe has worked in corrections and has experience in municipal government as a member of the Springfield School Committee and City Council. Nick Cocchi has 23 years in corrections and started from an entry-level position to being second in command under Sheriff Mike Ashe.

There is also a contest on the Republican side between John Comerford and write-in candidate Frank Barbaro.

The question facing voters will be who is the most experienced to carry on and build upon Ashe’s work.

There has been a lot of rhetoric  – as there is in any election – but the role of the voter is to cut through the noise and reach a conclusion that isn’t just based on name recognition or what a voter wants to hear.

The task is to consider what a candidate has done in the past and how that experience could relate to this important position. An additional requirement is to understand how labor contracts, the approval systems of the state government and budgeting affects what a sheriff can actually do and what he can’t.

The race for Governor’s Council is also on the primary ballot. It also is an important position and one that should require scrutiny from the voter.

Since the very first election in the misty reaches of history, candidates have been telling people what they want to hear. It’s called appealing to your base. Your job is to question what you hear.

It’s not my place to tell you for whom you should vote. I may have an ego, but it’s not that immense. It’s my place to cover events during the race in the hopes I can provide information to spur you to look deeper in a candidate.

I hope you go to the polls on Sept. 8.

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