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EDITORIAL: Who is that candidate?


DON’T GET ME WRONG, but I just love political postcards—especially the kind that demonize an opponent. I save some of the best ones and advise others to do the same. I have 13 of my favorites on my desk right now.These mini-masterpieces of contemporary art represent a small sample of a huge harvest.

Postcard portraits come from both sides of the Major Party aisle but the ones I have added to my collection this year favored the work of Republican artists and Democratic Party subjects. The palette and canvas of choice is a computer program called Photoshop, the artistic challenge is to evoke the darkest side of the subjects’ soul.

The masters of Photoshop can create works of neo-fake realism with a swipe of the mouse and suddenly it’s not just the gloomy lighting; there’s something about the look of the subject. Notice the subtle touches like the shape of a subject’s (or call them “an opponent’s”) teeth, the curve of his or her smile, the set of eyes. It’s the magic of suggesting that a genuine candidate might be a vampire if only you let yourself believe it. One talented disinformation artist deftly grafted a new right hand and wrist for Democrat Josh Riley and, in another delicately depicted odd creases in his pants.

The money to produce and the is artistic outpouring came from patrons of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a “Super PAC” (political action committee). If you go to the fund’s website it will link you to at least 39 different YouTube video recordings politically attacking Democratic candidates. Democrats or their supporters can use super PACs too. Neither party has to reveal who donated the money as long as the money is not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign. Do the rules apply to vampires?

My gallery of postcards from the November 8 General Election didn’t include a Democratic super PAC but there were cards funded by the state Democratic Committee. (The state GOP funded its candidates, too.)

In a monochromatic statement the unnamed artist portraying Sen. Michelle Hinchey’s campaign had a postcard depicting her opponent, state Senator Sue Serino. On the postcard, the Democratic artists removed all color except shades of red. That left Sen. Serino looking like a boiled tomato.

The question is not how far Photoshop artists—and candidates—will go to manipulate the public image of their opponents opponents; the question is: Does it work? Mr. Riley and Sen. Serino lost. Did the postcards affect the outcomes? The same question can be asked of Sen. Hinchey.

The postcards also beg the question of how much we voters spend on selecting the people who will govern our lives.

If I were offering advice, I would advise candidates to advertise in local newspapers.

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