Are you taking a deep breath now that the mid-term election is over? How can we not breathe a sigh or relief as we taper off a $1 billion campaign? Political ads were everywhere: on radio, television, newspaper and social media feeds. There was no escape. I was subjected to a new ad every couple of minutes watching Best Blind Auditions of The Voice Mongolia on YouTube. Even when I went as far away as Mongolia, those ads found me.
This was less a political campaign than a marketing extravaganza. There was no mistaking how the marketing tools of the GOP far outweighed those of the Democrats. With the Oval Office in constant motion, the arrival of the president or vice president at various venues was a series of unstoppable media moments. While presidential visits aren't a new development on the mid-term campaign trail, the numbers, optics and exaggerations are historical standouts.
Those who focused on presidential lies virtually ran out of breath in the final days of the campaign. Jake Tapper reported that the president told four lies a minute. Paul Krugman's column, "A Party Defined by its Lies," underscored the convenient Republican turnabout on pre-existing conditions, an experience one of my cohorts described as swallowing a sudden glob of fat that would barely fit down a pig's gullet. Not to mention the labeling of the "caravan" trodding toward our Southern border as a bunch of outlaws, gang members and Middle Eastern terrorists requiring more troops to safeguard Americans than we currently have in war-torn Afghanistan.
Despite objections by pundits and opponents, the lies do not and have not generated outrage in large sections of our population. Instead, there's been buy-in to the political circus.
Chattanooga had a front row seat at this circus last Sunday. Standing-room only at Bessie Smith Hall for Phil Bredesen was hardly the same as standing-room only at McKenzie Arena with President Donald Trump, Vice Mike President Pence and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Bredesen's security was modest compared to the stadium's combined Secret Service, FBI and local law enforcement. Bredesen's arrival was invisible compared to the landing of both Air Force 1 and 2, plus the presidential motorcade. Booths lined the arena streets selling T-shirts and hats with eye-catching symbols, with some of them sporting ugly, dehumanizing slogans.
The somber tone of Bredesen's interfaith lunch and the prayers for those massacred at Pittsburg Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was in stark contrast to the wild, noisy, raucous atmosphere at the stadium. Bredesen's emphasis on counteracting hate-provoking divisiveness was a lost cause given the stadium frenzy. His insistence that we work together was drowned out by the energy surrounding Trump at the stadium.
Bredesen understood the vote's likely outcome. He was eager for the election to be over so that his children and grandchildren didn't have to see the viciously negative ads about him. He jokingly added that even his dog wouldn't look him in the eye anymore. Unfortunately, Bredesen lost. Even more unfortunate is that his plea to work together was lost.
Some officials now hint at working together, but why does that sound so unlikely? Maybe because in-your-face rhetoric is the new normal. So indulge now in a deep post-election breath, because you'll need that oxygen. Trump will increase the lies for his 2020 campaign. Democrats will try to end complicit silence over Trump's questionable business dealings. Given the Oval Office's marketing advantage, brace for all-out war. Buckle up!
Deborah Levine is an author and trainer/coach. She is editor of the American Diversity Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.