Editorials

Survive the election in 6 easy steps

The Observer editorial board

The political TV ads are on their way. Brace yourselves.
The political TV ads are on their way. Brace yourselves.

We already know that 9 percent of you are beyond this editorial’s ability to help you. For the other 91 percent, a three-minute investment now could save you a couple of headaches in coming months.

In August, 9 percent of North Carolinians surveyed by Public Policy Polling said they supported Deez Nuts for president. Deez Nuts is actually 15-year-old Brady Olson of Iowa, who created the satirical candidate as a practical joke. His supporters can now turn to the comics pages. (We suppose we should be more worried that 31 percent of N.C. Republican primary voters support Donald Trump.)

It’s hard to believe, but the 2016 election in North Carolina officially starts Tuesday at noon, when candidates across the state begin filing to run for office almost a full year before Election Day, but 3 ½ months shy of the primary.

It promises to be a hot mess of a campaign, with a ballot longer than War and Peace featuring races from president to governor to soil and water conservation district supervisor. On Mecklenburg ballots alone, 61 seats will be up for grabs.

Our prediction? Voters will be pummeled like no one since Ronda Rousey, with ads, spin, charges, countercharges, promises and lies. If you’re not careful, you could get hurt. Here are six quick tips for surviving the bludgeoning:

1. Turn off the ads. Why do you think Nikola Tesla invented the remote control? At best ads are self-serving snippets that don’t tell a candidate’s whole story. At worst they are outright lies. In 2014, Georgia Republican David Perdue ran an ad that falsely claimed Democrat Michelle Nunn said she funded organizations linked to terrorists. In North Carolina, an outside group paid for a ridiculous ad accusing Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson of being sympathetic to child molesters. You’re better off switching over to Family Feud.

2. Follow the money. Politicians at all levels spend a lot of time raising money, and most of it comes from special interests. President Obama attended a record 321 fundraisers in his first term alone. Next year’s governor’s race could be the most expensive in N.C. history. All that money shapes policy. At a minimum, as we’ve seen recently with Pat McCrory’s donors Graeme Keith and Charlie Shelton, big donors have a politician’s ear like the rest of us don’t. So if you want to get past a candidate’s canned lines, look at his bottom line.

3. Remember to turn off the ads.

4. Compare what they say now to how they’ve governed in the past, and bank on their actions over their words. Candidates typically tack to the left or right for the primary, then back to the middle for the general election. Their public record, for those who have one, is a better indicator of what to expect than anything they say.

5. Be aware of confirmation bias. That’s social-scientist-speak that means you’re more likely to believe something that confirms what you already think. Whether it’s an ad or a poll or an (ahem) editorial, be aware of how your own beliefs predispose you to process what you hear.

6. Most importantly, if you do nothing else: Turn off the ads.

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