Lompoc Record calls Lois Capps’ Mitchum ad “a glaring example” of “distortion of the truth.”

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Lompoc Record Editorial November 17th, 2014. We’ve had considerable feedback concerning the 24th Congressional District race, in which Lois Capps was re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.Specifically, readers are complaining about pre-election advertising on Capps’ behalf. One video contained misleading wording attributed to Capps’ opponent, Chris Mitchum, a Santa Barbara Republican: “I do not intend to go to Washington to represent the 24th District.” 

A viewer seeing that ad might reasonably draw the conclusion that Mitchum showed disrespect for Central Coast voters — precisely what creators of the pro-Capps campaign ad wanted.

Except, it was a lie. Well, not a complete lie, but a selectively edited version of the truth.

What Mitchum actually said was: “I do not intend to go to Washington to represent the 24th District to bring back baseball fields.”

Our interpretation of the full quote tells us Mitchum was going to give his all on behalf of constituents of the 24th District — not the flippant attitude alleged in the Capps ad.

There’s no way to know if that misrepresentation of a candidate’s statement led to Mitchum’s defeat at the polls, but it could not have helped his cause, which is exactly what those behind the Capps campaign intended.

This is just one small example of what’s wrong with modern American politics. Because we are a nation in which free speech is not only allowed, but encouraged, political operatives have decided blatant lies are an accepted part of the campaign process.

Which may help explain why so few Americans are interested in politics — at least interested enough to bother to vote. Here are some discouraging facts:

In the nation’s three largest states — California, Texas and New York — less than a third of the population eligible to vote actually cast a ballot. In 43 states, less than half the eligible citizens bothered to vote.

Overall, the turnout nationwide was a distressing 36.3 percent, the lowest in any U.S. election in nearly three-quarters of a century.

In the ranking of all 50 states by voter turnout, California finished a dismal 40th, with a turnout of 31.8 percent., finishing in a tie with Nevada and West Virginia.

Political analysts are having a field day with such numbers, especially those with ties to the Republican Party. They say the poor turnout is a direct result of a lackluster performance by President Obama and his administration. In fact, GOP candidates nationwide seemed to have a single-issue focus — Obama’s falling favor with Americans.

So, there was little surprise in the GOP taking over the Senate majority, and padding its lead in the House. In a gush of hubris, the Republican sweep is being referred to as a mandate for a more conservative government.

That’s possible, but highly unlikely, based solely on the numbers. How can there be a mandate when the winners were chosen with, in some cases, as little as 15 percent of the potential vote?

We believe the real cause of voter apathy is the hatefulness that permeates political campaigning in recent years. Voters and potential voters have come to understand that the bulk of campaign advertising is not to be trusted — the Capps ad distortion of the truth being a glaring example.

This is not a safe path for our form of democracy, when paid-for advertising can lie with impunity by editing a candidate’s remarks to suit an opponent’s purposes.

There are limits to free speech. The Supreme Court has ruled you can’t yell “fire!” in a crowded theater, unless there is one. That concept needs to be applied to politics.

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