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EDITORIAL

Let's crowd out lazy and stupid

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - 12:01 am

It's so much easier for voters to stay that way

Because of the much-looser campaign finance regulations these days, the contest in Indiana for U.S. Senate has entered the pricey political stratosphere usually occupied only by the gubernatorial contest. So far, Republican candidate Richard Mourdock and Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly or those supporting them have spent roughly $10 million for TV air time. And the rate of spending is going to accelerate in the last 30 days of the race.

Such lavish spending has many effects, one unfortunate being that is getting easier all the time for the lazy voter and the stupid voter to stay uninformed right up till the time they vote. When a candidate senses defeat, that candidates ads start to go negative, because they work. That brings negative ads from the other side, and the contest descends into the depths of character assassination. By the time Election Day rolls around, those who have relied only on TV ads have only a dim understanding of the issues and have a distorted view of the candidates. And it is a caricature they are voting for.

Efforts to change the situation are not likely to succeed. Every loophole that is closed in regulations tends to create even more loopholes – people with money always find a way to spend it. There are also First Amendment considerations. If any speech should be unfettered in this country it is political speech, and campaign advertisements are political speech.

Fortunately, it is also easier today for those who wish to be smart, informed voters. We no longer have to spend hours or days in the library perusing old newspapers. There are advocacy groups and voting promoters all over the Internet offering a wealth of information on candidates and issues. And we can go to the candidates’ own websites to see their own words unfiltered by handlers or pundits.

There will always be more lazy voters than smart voters. The easier it gets for both groups, the greater the obligation of the smart voters to keep plugging away

Free speech at the plaza

There’s an interesting free speech battle going on over the Allen County Public Library’s plaza. Attorney David Kilhoff, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, wants to use it to stage a demonstration against Obamacare. Library Director Jeffrey Krull says officials haven’t allowed such demonstrations and don’t want anyone approaching patrons as they arrive or depart.

Given the value we place on free speech, courts usually look for a compelling reason to curtail it, such as the need to not impede traffic. The Fort Wayne International Airport offered the very reasonable need to maintain security in the wake of 9/11 as a justification for its “free speech zone.”

It’s hard to see a compelling reason here. We don’t have a right to not be annoyed in public spaces.