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Joan E. Dowlin Headshot

The 2012 Campaign Theme: 'I Know You Are, But What Am I?'

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In this presidential campaign season, each candidate has been accused by the other's team of being a liar, out of touch with the middle class, secretive, clueless with how to fix the economy, an elitist, a panderer to their own base, ending Medicare as we know it, and killing jobs.

The incumbent president accused his rival's big business enterprise of being "the pioneer of outsourcing." So the GOP candidate shot back with calling the president "The Outsourcer in Chief."

Once the Republican nominee picked his choice for VP, the Democrats ran attack ads declaring his running mate's budget plan would create a voucher program for seniors thus ending Medicare as we know it.

The Republicans countered that the president's Affordable Care Act will take billions out of Medicare even though Democrats say they are getting rid of waste and fraud by ending the prescription doughnut hole and that it will not change Medicare recipients' benefits.

These above examples remind me of a quote from Pee Wee Herman: "I know you are, but what am I?" In the past, politicians have attacked one another but I can never remember so much deceit and lies being leveled with no accountability for their accuracy.

It used to be if you were caught in a lie you had to apologize for it. Not today. Here are some sound bites of the GOP using the president's words against him: "If we keep talking about the economy, we will lose," "the private sector is doing fine," and "If you've got a business, you didn't build that." What's missing is that the president was quoting his 2008 opponent in the first example, referring to big business in the second, and talking about building bridges and roadways, not small businesses in the third.

The Democratic opposition countered with jumping on these gems from the GOP candidate: "Corporations are people, my friend," "I'm not concerned about the very poor," and "I like to be able to fire people." What was left out of the first quote is "everything corporations earn ultimately go to people," "we have a safety net there" for the second, and "who provide services to me" as he was talking about firing doctors on health care plans in the third.

Now we have the dueling attack ads. A Super PAC ad supporting the president has implied that his opponent was responsible for the death of the wife of an employee that lost his job and their healthcare coverage when the GOP nominee's corporation took over the man's company. Even though this ad has not officially run on TV (only once was it on the Internet), it has created quite a stir and caused the GOP candidate to say it is beneath the office of the president to support it. Never mind that it is one that the President did not officially produce or endorse.

However, the president pointed out in his recent news conference that the Republican candidate actually approved of an unfair ad that said the president had taken the work requirement out of the welfare to work law, which many have said is blatantly false.

Then we have the horrendous gaffes from others within the party that indirectly affect the ticket: The current Democratic VP saying "they want to put y'all back in chains" to a racially mixed audience and a GOP Congressman running for the Senate in Missouri saying"legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy. For both comments I have no "out of context" excuses, but the latter was one rare instance that united both parties in condemnation against it.

Why are the candidates waiting for the gaffes instead of giving us solutions to our sluggish economy and joblessness? It's no wonder that so many that I speak to these days say they are not voting. The 2008 election seemed electric but today countless numbers of folks are being turned off to politics.

Despite the fact that Congress has an approval rating of 10% (you would think they would want to clean up their image) and most whom you talk to on the street are fed up with dirty politics and division, this 2012 presidential campaign is being called one of the most negative of all time.

My belief is that this situation was fueled by the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010 that concluded that corporations are people and they should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts on campaigns without revealing their sources. In this time of economic hardship, the last thing the middle and working classes want to see is billions spent on elections while they are struggling just to make ends meet.

The electorate is sick and tired of negative ads that often are false and use candidates' words taken out of context. They are upset there is no accountability of these Super PACs to reveal their donors who are often foreign sources.

What can we as average citizens do? For one thing, not fall prey to the apathy and negativity. The best solution is to vote and get others out to vote. Do what it takes to register even if it means obtaining a voter ID. We need to ask ourselves, which candidate has earned my vote? Which candidate will work to change the Citizens United decision? Who will work for finance reform? Who is really on the side of the middle class?

We still have the conventions and the debates to help us decide. I will be watching both with great anticipation. There will be more gaffes and accusations of "I know you are, but what am I?" but I urge everyone to keep an open mind, decide whom you trust and vote from your heart.