True Dat

     I love voting with pure malice. It gives someone a reason to care, and it’s gratifying even if the vote you cast falls on the losing side. Because then you can at least wash your hands of any responsibility for the outcome of the election (see 2000, 2004 presidential elections, 2010 Florida gubernatorial election).
     The new mayor of Tampa is Bob Buckhorn, who beat former county commissioner (and my local pharmacist) Rose Ferlita like a drum in this month’s runoff election. I got to vote with malice, and the bonus is I picked the winning candidate.
     I liked Rose Ferlita, I voted for her in the general election and planned on voting for her against Buckhorn. Then she lost me when she started making ridiculous allegations, a lame form of smear campaigning in a nominally non-partisan race.
     Specifically, Ferlita claimed that Buckhorn supported requiring police officers to lock their guns in the trunks of their cruisers. The claim is ludicrous of course, and was thoroughly debunked by the St. Petersburg Times’ awesome PolitiFact, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009. Despite this effective and swift debunking, the Ferlita campaign stuck to its guns on the claim and she proceeded to get trounced by about 10,000 votes.
     PolitiFact has made a name for itself rooting out hysterical right-wing originated e-mails attacking Obama for being black reckless with the deficit, wild left-wing claims of wrongdoing by anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the monthly newsletter “Obama Christ,”, and just about every other word out of the mouth of one Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
     The database takes a claim it finds interesting, and actually looks into whether or not the claim is true. During election season PolitiFact works hard, grading political statements on a scale ranging from “true” to “pants on fire.” As a bonus, PolitiFact also takes on accusations of flip-flopping (non-Buffett style), grading on “no flip” to “full flop.” It tracks the administration’s progress towards its stated goals via the “Obamameter,” and holds the GOP accountable for its promises with the “GOP Pledge-O-Meter.”
     Luckily, PolitiFact doesn’t confine itself to ferreting out bold-faced lies by national personalities, and took on Ferlita’s claim about police and their guns. The claim was false, had been circulating since the early 1990s, and had been attributed to various candidates over the years. Not one person has ever been able to pinpoint how it started, or verify the claim’s veracity.
     Despite the quick, unequivocal refutation, Ferlita clung to the allegation, and I changed my vote to punish her. It worked; I was clearly the reason 9,999 other people voted in similar fashion.
     It’s just too bad that too many people don’t want to read the facts, lest they get in the way of the reality they’ve built for themselves. If people would only pay attention with an open mind, this country would probably be a lot better off. But far less entertaining to live in.

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