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Sticks and Stones, The Chicago Way



    Sticks and Stones, The Chicago Way
    Patricia Van-Pelt Watkins speaks at a mayoral candidates' forum at Trinity Church on Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011.

    A union leader calls Rahm Emanuela "Wall Street Judas."  Carol Moseley Braun calls Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins a crack addict. This upsets some people.

    Not me.

    As a voter, I seriously don't care who calls which candidate what. This is politics. Name-calling is part of the game.

    Yes, there are some voters who cling to the slurs and believe them as truth. John Kerry has to live with the "flip-flopper" moniker for the rest of his life. Ill-informed Tea Party acolytes believe President Obama was born in a terrorist boot camp. Lyndon Johnson convinced us all Barry Goldwater would drop an atomic bomb on the little girl with the daisy.

    Sometimes, a self-imposed title will stick. Sarah Palin will readily tell you how much of a maverick she is. President Bush would be happy to remind you he's "a uniter, not a divider." People still like Ike.

    These things are nothing more than branding. Advertising. Words the candidates hope you drag with you into the voting booth. And really, if you're that gullible, enjoy the unqualified mudslingers you're putting in office.

    When it's time to vote, you should consider a candidate's background, qualifications and judgment. Consider their demeanor. When someone calls them a crack whore, do they flip out like a guest on "Jerry Springer"? Or do they calmly and deftly side-step the attack? Ask yourself what kind of person you want sitting in the Big Boy chair. Someone who can withstand the occasional sticks and stones? Or someone who shatters like glass when an illiterate misanthrope holds the wrong cardboard sign?

    My philosophy is that you should ignore the propaganda from the moment the election cycle starts.  These candidates have no reason to follow through on anything they promise. 

    Personal example: I ran for Vice President of the Gull Road Elementary School student council circa 1986.  My opponent put shiny, distracting balloons on her posters. She said if she were elected, she'd start after-school clubs. Sounds great, right? 

    My opponent won. But the clubs never happened. School administrators believed clubs would lead to gangs. Elementary school gangs. I am not making this up.

    So my opponent's promise was broken. And the wrath of the voters amounted to ... nothing. Because we were in elementary school. Our biggest concern was whether Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage would reconcile after the whole Miss Elizabeth debacle.

    In Chicago, the stakes are higher. Hopefully, voters do their homework and don't vote based on someone's snake oil pitch. 

    Remember, this mayor will be in charge for a good 20 years, then spawn a son or daughter who will be mayor in 40 years or so. Say what you will about Chicago voters. At least we're loyal.

    Ben Bowman is a producer for the NBC Chicago morning show.You can follow him on Twitter unless you'd rather follow the lie-spewing 1986 Gull Road Elementary student council Vice President.