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Rich Manieri: Another election has come and gone. Now what?

November 9, 2018

That’s over with. And not a moment too soon.

It’s usually at this point when I start reviewing what I’ve seen and heard over the past several months and try to make some sense of it, not unlike what a psychologist might do with a particularly vivid and disturbing nightmare.

The problem with political campaigns in general, and TV ads in particular, is that there really are no rules anymore. It’s Thunderdome. Mischaracterizations, misrepresentations, quotes out of context - anything goes. You can say anything about anyone. And yet, they keep coming. Negative political ads are up 60 percent since 2014, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks political advertising.

As much as we complain about the process, the main reason candidates go negative is because it works. An Emory University study released in May revealed that a 1 percent increase in negative advertising by a candidate significantly boosts the candidate’s chance of winning.

Yes, that means it’s our fault. We’re evidently buying a good bit of what’s being sold, no matter how misleading or outrageous it might be.

By now we’ve seen just about everything short of someone photoshopping devil horns on his opponent. And that’s probably not far off.

But who will ever forget Minnesota Democrat Richard Painter standing in front of an actual dumpster fire saying, “There’s an inferno raging in Washington!”? Painter ran for Al Franken’s vacated Senate seat and was trounced in the primary.

Or how about rogue Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship of West Virginia, who referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s family as his “China family”? He too lost in the primary.

I’d like to believe that our elected representatives in Washington will see divided government as an opportunity to show some actual leadership and seek compromise on difficult issues. And I’m not the only one.

“I believe that there is an opportunity for Democrats to reach across the aisle and pass an impactful infrastructure bill and, believe it or not, a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” wrote Democrat and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell in an opinion piece for Foxnews.com. “Both infrastructure and immigration reform have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past and I think there is a real potential to hammer out positive responses to these two important challenges.”

Rendell is a smart guy and he knows it would be a mistake for Democrats to use their majority as a tool for both obstruction and further investigation of the Trump administration. Rendell also knows that if the Democrats overplay their hand, the main beneficiary is likely to be Donald Trump in 2020.

Whatever motivation the Democrats might have for focusing on policy, I’m not exactly percolating with optimism that it will happen and here’s why.

Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who has urged her supporters to harass members of the Trump administration, is set to become chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee.

Outspoken Trump critic, Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, is poised to assume leadership of the House intelligence committee.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi could wind up House speaker once again. Pelosi said Tuesday night that this election was about “stopping the GOP.”

These are not moderate Democrats searching for common ground with their Republican colleagues. This is the anti-Trump resistance and any legislative effort that ends with Trump receiving even a modest amount of credit will trigger a partywide reach for airsick bags.

Passing an infrastructure bill that actually does some good should be easy. Everyone wants good roads and bridges.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen too often, just because something makes sense doesn’t mean it will happen.

And not much will make sense to the rest of us until our lawmakers realize that checks and balances and obstruction are not the same thing.

Rich Manieri is a Philadelphia-born journalist and author. He is currently a professor of journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky. His book, “We Burn on Friday: A Memoir of My Father and Me” is available at amazon.com. You can reach him at manieri2@gmail.com.

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