Timely slogan for voters: Beware

  • Jim Slusher

    Jim Slusher

Updated 10/22/2020 10:24 AM

In election campaign season, it can help to keep in mind this slight modification of a well-known Latin phrase referring to unregulated commercialism: caveat suffragator.

Voter beware.


Last month, some Jeanne Ives supporters complained about an ad for incumbent Democratic Congressman Sean Casten that repeated a single phrase -- "I'd give him an A" -- from a Daily Herald editorial board meeting with Ives during the primary campaign seven months ago to broadly define her views on all the policies of President Donald Trump. In truth, Ives had moved beyond the idea of general policy to specifically reference the president's economic and foreign policies. Elsewhere in the interview, she was critical of some of the president's actions. Her supporters felt the ad misconstrued her remarks and took them out of context.

But, Ives' camp would have context issues of its own to answer for. An ad for the Republican 6th District challenger implied that Casten, who supports a pay raise for Congress, called the job's $174,000-a-year salary "peanuts." What he actually said, as our Russell Lissau reported in a story last month on the dueling videos, was that Casten wanted a wage that would lure the "best and brightest" to Congress, under a philosophy he said he used when he ran a company and "didn't tell people, come here because you're so committed to our mission that you're willing to, you know, sleep on your friend's couch and work for peanuts."

More recently, supporters of Republican Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim objected to an ad for his challenger Democrat Eric Rinehart that pulled three words -- "mistakes were made" -- from Nerheim and Rinehart's Daily Herald editorial board interview to suggest that the state's attorney was discounting wrongful convictions. The phrase actually was pulled from quotes in which Nerheim was describing efforts to reduce wrongful convictions.

Such situations are not limited to videos or broadcast ads, of course. They are rampant in the mailers now arriving daily at your homes. One flier paid for by the Illinois Republican Party apparently wanted to make a point by modifying an image from a rally showing 42nd District House candidate Ken Mejia-Beal holding a campaign sign overhead. The creators replaced the actual words of the sign with the phrase in all caps, "I WANT TO RAISE YOUR TAXES." The mailer was for incumbent state Rep. Amy Grant, who ought to know the sting of dishonest misrepresentation. She became the focus of a controversy in which her own words were taken out of context from a deceitful recorded phone call and used against her.

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In all these cases and many more one could cite from the presidential race to campaigns for judges or local officials, candidates and their supporters deliberately distort, inflate and misconstrue statements and actions of their opponents to suggest some nefarious connection or intent. The claims may be rooted loosely in fact, but they are far from factual. Keep that in mind as you evaluate candidates and issues in the days leading up to the November election.

Above all, when you see claims that sound outrageous, remember that Latin caveat to consumers and consider this modification in plain English of another popular admonition: If claims about a candidate sound too ridiculous to be true, they probably are. Read newspapers. Use tools like the "Ballot Builder" atop the home page of the Daily Herald's website, www.dailyherald.com. Watch diverse news reports. Attend forums. Get the context of the claims you see.

In short, beware.


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