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Sep 30, 2004 12:29 am

And Now for a Word from Our Sponsor

We interrupt this program about presidential debates to bring to your attention an altogether depressing (though hardly shocking) finding from the Annenberg Center.

Guess what? The American people know very little about where the candidates stand on the very issues the candidates have spent the last year talking about:

*More than half of those polled by the National Annenberg Election Survey didn't know President Bush alone favors allowing private investments of some Social Security money.

*Nearly as many didn't know that only Democratic candidate John Kerry proposes getting rid of tax breaks for the overseas profits of U.S. companies.

*Importing drugs from Canada? That's a Kerry issue, but nearly half either didn't know or thought Bush also supported changing federal law to allow for drug imports from Canada.

*Making abortions more difficult to obtain? Nearly one-third of those surveyed didn't know Bush alone supports more restrictions on abortion.

*Eliminating the tax on estates? Two-thirds didn't know that's a Bush proposal. [Associated Press, Sept. 29, 2004.]

Blame the media? Sure. Blame the voters themselves? Sure. Our democracy is on autopilot. People don't vote. They don't take the time to find out what the candidates stand for. They sound plain dumb a lot of the time.

But the real problem is our system. No one designed it. And it shows. Who could design such a system?

The culprit of course is television more than anything else. It personalizes politics. Issues be damned. We ask ouselves if we'd like to go to a barbecue with the candidate, not what they believe. To alk abou the issues requires real knowledge. To have an opinion about someone's personality requires no knowledge.

Want to change the system? Two suggestions. 1. Restore the two-party system so the parties can once again perform the vital function of educating voters about issues. 2. Restore unions, which also used to engage in a vast voter education project every election.

That would be a start.

Fact of the Day: According to the NYT, since the end of the primaries local TV stations have run half a million political spots.

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