Printed on: September 27, 2012

Dumbing us down

On Sunday, the Post Register published a story about the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Dennis Rehberg. This one promises to be tight. Montanans have proven themselves willing to elect Republicans and Democrats. And both men are incumbents. Tester serves in the Senate and Rehberg is Montana's lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Tester-Rehberg race has attracted national attention and money. So far, according to the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, Tester has raised $9.3 million and Rehberg $5.6 million. The vast majority of both men's money comes from political action committees and "large" donors, folks who could care less about how Montanans are represented but are determined to help their faction seize control of the Senate.

Contrast that to what is not taking place in Idaho. Our congressional races have generated little interest and nowhere near the money that is flowing into Montana. Republican Raul Labrador has raised about half a million dollars. Closer to home, Congressman Mike Simpson has $955,000 in the bank compared with $156,000 for Democratic challenger Nicole LeFavour.

At this point, you might expect us to lament the lack of competition in Idaho. The dearth of television commercials. The nonexistent debate between candidates. But after seeing what is taking place right next door, it becomes apparent that we aren't missing much.

There is, for example, the chicken ad. In it, a man in a yellow chicken suit parades around various venues, holding handmade signs accusing Rehberg of ducking a debate. Another anti-Rehberg ad ties the Republican to corporate money and shows him, naturally, on the golf course. Not to be outdone, a Rehberg ad seeks to make sure Montanans know he is not unsympathetic to those suffering from cancer. An elderly woman assures folks that Rehberg cares. She should know. She's his mother and a cancer survivor.

On and on it goes. Tester's supporters link Rehberg to mercury poisoning. Rehberg uses twins to say Tester and President Obama are tied at the hip. Watch enough of these and you can actually feel yourself getting dumber.

Even the candidates know how bad this is. In that Sunday story, Tester apologized for the onslaught before warning it will only get worse as Election Day approaches.

Montana has become the poster child for Citizens United politics, our brave new world where big bucks from abroad drown out local voices and reduce our debate to the lowest common denominator. And so, we've reached a point where our electoral politics have become so broken, so bereft of integrity and intelligence, that one can actually make the argument that no debate is better than being subjected to one of this nature.

Corey Taule