Last minute political ploys cloud the real issues

Jul. 27, 2014 @ 12:27 AM

Be it Lyndon Johnson’s talk of possible peace in Vietnam just days before the 1968 election, Henry Kissinger’s similar talking points in the waning hours of the 1972 Nixon campaign or even the 2012 release of Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comments four months after he made them, the October surprise is not a new tactic in the world of politics.

At national, state and even local levels, it seems political opponents hunger for a chance to get in a last-second dig at their opponent, whether based in fact or fiction. Maybe it’s an authentic story held until the last minute; it could be an exaggerated grasp at straws when polling numbers don’t look good; or it could be a complete fabrication, anonymously leaked just as voters head out to the ballot box.

It’s all a part of the game, apparently. Politics, as Niccolo Machiavelli said, have no relation to morals.

This election, it seems, there is a July surprise: the attempt to connect the Tennessee Supreme Court to Obamacare — which appears, in Tennessee at least, to be the most-hated piece of legislation ever written.

Interestingly, however, the Tennessee Supreme Court has had no opportunity to rule on any aspect of the Affordable Care Act. Three justices face retention votes Aug. 7. Their opponents are relying on the public’s disdain for the law to help drum up last-minute support for the vote to oust them.

Using the weak link that the court appoints the state’s attorney general, and noting that Tennessee AG Bob Cooper didn’t file suit with other states in their fight against Obamacare, apparently trumps any real issues with the court. Rather than calling into question their verdicts on real cases  — their real jobs — opponents are using a manufactured bogeyman to try to swerve last-minute voters.

So many Republicans and conservatives have endorsed keeping the justices — in the name of keeping the courts from descending into a purely political office — that it’s hard to believe Obamacare is truly a critical issue in the state Supreme Court race.

Hopefully those making the trip to the polls in the coming weeks and on Election Day can see through the ploy.