"Democrats and Republicans in Washington State and throughout the nation should do some soul-searching now that another ugly election is history. The question is, should they continue in their so-far successful effort to turn the American electorate into a nation of cynics, who believe that candidates from both parties are either incompetents or liars, or both?This is a particularly pertinent issue for young Americans who, after watching a barrage of TV ads, listening to hours of radio ads, and wading through tons of political ads in their mailboxes, have largely concluded that the political system isn't even worth paying attention to, let alone participating in. The extreme negativity of the election campaigns threatens our system, which depends on an informed electorate that believes in our democratic system of government.What should the casual young citizen think after the just-concluded months of campaigning? That George Bush is an idiot? Al Gore is a liar? Slade Gorton is an environmental rapist? Maria Cantwell is a tax-hiking fanatic? Mary Margaret Haugen is a tax-aholic? All of these are logical conclusions based upon the advertising to which we've been subjected. No wonder most young people don't vote.Island County is no better than the rest of the nation. Name calling and record-twisting were pandemic in local elections as honorable candidates were smeared with misleading advertising. One candidate made clean campaigning a well-publicized priority, but still a hit piece against her opponent, produced by the Republican Party, slipped into area mailboxes. Just about every candidate can legitimately complain that they were victimized by lies or half-truths during the campaign.By and large, campaigns do not extoll the experience, virtues and ideas of the candidate, but instead focus on distorting the views and experience of the opposition. Such a process breeds cynicism and is a direct threat to the best system of government the world has yet devised.The two major political parties should get together and set some strict, enforcable ground rules for advertising before the 2002 general election arrives. All you have to do is be positive about your candidates, be honest about the opposition, and discuss the issues on their merits. This may seem like an absurd approach in a time when advertising experts recommend negative ads because they work. Sure, they work -- they work to drive millions of Americans out of the political process. They work so well, in fact, that if somebody doesn't stop them they'll ruin the country. "

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