The Bait and Switch of Campaign Promises

But there is one thing that is noticeably absent: candidates are not held accountable for promises. It is the equivalent of buying a car and being told by a salesman that the car gets 25 miles to the gallon but when you get it home you discover it only gets 12 miles to the gallon. However, unlike electing a politician, a consumer who is lied to or bait and switched has recourse. In the case of electing people for office the electorate is often sold a bill of goods without any recourse available.

Candidates can say and do whatever they want because voters don’t hold them accountable

Approximately 16 years ago I was running for the school board in Hillsborough County. One of the candidates made an impassioned speech about morality and stated that if she were elected she would see to it that the Bible was put back into the classroom. She received applause for that statement. I whispered to another candidate, “I think she’s running for the wrong office, if that’s what she wants to do then she really needs to seek an appointment to the Supreme Court because they are the only ones who can make a difference on that issue.”

Since that time I have heard candidates make a myriad number of promises to purchase votes. Remember, “No new taxes?” How about, “A chicken in every pot,” which can be traced to a political ad placed by the Republican party in an effort to get Herbert Hoover elected in 1928. The reality is that candidates could promise the electorate everything from better education for children to coming over twice a week to give their grandparents a bath and none of it is enforceable if the candidates fail to keep the promises made in their ads, speeches or anywhere else.

The Communications Act of 1934 outlines all the specifics for political advertising. But there is one thing that is noticeably absent: candidates are not held accountable for promises. It is the equivalent of buying a car and being told by a salesman that the car gets 25 miles to the gallon but when you get it home you discover it only gets 12 miles to the gallon. However, unlike electing a politician, a consumer who is lied to or bait and switched has recourse. In the case of electing people for office the electorate is often sold a bill of goods without any recourse available.

As we approach Election Day there will be a lot of speeches made by candidates running for a variety of offices. My advice is to listen to what they have to say and ask yourself, “Can they really deliver this?” Recently I saw an ad where someone running for the U.S. House of Representatives stated: “I will make a difference in Congress.” This sounds great but remember he will be 1 of 435 members and how much of a difference have freshman Congressmen ever made?

Politicians have historically been full of rhetoric because they know that they cannot be held accountable for promises they make. They are like the psychic who predicts an end to the world, does something like hold a prayer vigil, and then takes credit because the world didn’t end.

Imagine a world where politicians could be kicked out of office for “bait and switch” where it could be demonstrated that they went back on campaign promises? This would be like a refund to a voter who spent his/her vote on that candidate only to discover that they invested in something that never happened. Since this is a very unlikely scenario it is vital that voters aren’t sucked in by cute slogans or empty words (like “Change”) and, if possible, check how a politician voted because we all know that actions really do speak much louder than words.

Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books. E-mail him at: writer161@aol.com.

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