Marquette Wire

Staff editorial: Moving beyond the political trash talk

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With the presidential race reaching new levels of mud slinging and Wisconsin among the states that receive the most televised campaign advertisements, we have a feeling many voters share our disgust for the phrase, "And I approve this message."

Voters deserve a campaign discourse of the highest level. But even when politicians insist upon tearing each other down, we must maintain enthusiasm for our democratic process and dig through the dirt to find the issues.

While what we'd really like is the clean, fair fight promised by both presidential candidates at the beginning of the campaign season, we pessimistically believe the attack ads won't cease before Election Day. CNN reports Senators Barack Obama and John McCain have each shelled out around $9 million to trash talk their opponent.

Wisconsin is no longer political flyover land. Campaign spending in Wisconsin ranks sixth of the 50 states, and the Milwaukee and Green Bay TV markets rank third and fourth nationally in the number of political ads aired. Television watchers in Wisconsin are more often exposed to negative campaign ads than viewers in many other states.

As unfortunate as this is, we believe voters have an obligation to examine the most important issues before going to the polls Nov. 4. We empathize with the instinct to change the channel when the attack ads start, and we truly hope students disregard smear tactics, but we urge students not to ignore the election itself.

Voter turnout for ages 18 to 25 topped 45 percent in 2004 and analysts hold higher expectations for this year's turnout. We understand how difficult it is to maintain enthusiasm about either candidate as each distorts his opponent's record, but college students are part of a voting block that could decide the election, so it is vital we inform ourselves.

Ignoring the sideline circuses is no easy task, but each of us has the responsibility to check out the record and stances of each candidate. If politicians won't honestly discuss these things themselves, students must do their own research before deciding who would make a better president.

Plenty of avenues exist to help voters make informed decisions. McCain and Obama both have Web sites containing their stances on every issue.

Third party organizations can also help voters cut through the distortions. Project Vote Smart allows voters to view summaries of each candidate's voting records. FactCheck.org, a Web site that addresses statements made by both campaigns, gives voters the truth about misleading ads and misrepresented facts.

Don't tune out, Marquette. While it is unfortunate politics has devolved into vicious attacks, every citizen has a duty to make an informed decision on Election Day. Take a break from midterms and do a little research. With apologies to our professors, we strongly believe studying up on the candidates is, in the long run, much more import than studying for exams.

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