I know how much you love your candidate. Maybe you have chalked John McCain’s name all over campus, bought a giant cardboard cutout of Barack Obama or sacrificed a goat for Ron Paul on your gold altar. That’s part of the beauty of American politics: You have the freedom to support your candidate with whatever craven level of endorsement you can muster. But no matter how fiercely you want your man in the White House, I wish you would stop lying to get him there.

Last week, there was a fiasco on campus involving an unknown register-your-ass-to-vote person, who screwed up in an epic fashion. Apparently, upon learning that a student supported Barack Obama but wasn’t old enough to vote, the clipboard-toting mastermind advised the student to put down a fake birthday on the voter registration form. Great way to support your man there — except for the whole breaking a federal law part.

Unsurprisingly, the election season tradition of distorting reality isn’t limited to our campus. Groups supporting either Obama or McCain are springing up everywhere, and thanks to the Internet, they can easily spread their messages. See, everyone can use the Internet, from a well-researched politician to a deranged grandma, who sends her e-mails entirely in capital letters about SOMETHING ADORABLE THE CAT DID. Obviously the Internet isn’t regulated by journalistic standards — yet people still listen.

Consider BornAliveTruth.org, a pro-life organization that’s putting out anti-Obama ads on the Internet. In one, a woman speaks who somehow survived her mother’s attempted abortion. She tells us that Obama opposed a bill in the Illinois state legislature that would have recognized the children of failed abortions as “human (people).” Stone-faced, she concludes, “If Obama had had his way, I wouldn’t be here.”

Obama’s not only pro-choice, but pro-baby murder. Except the video leaves out an important detail (surprise!): At the time the bill was proposed, doctors were already legally required to care for all children from failed abortions. I’m pretty sure that the woman in the ad hasn’t been treated like a space alien her whole life either. Obama opposed the bill because he believed it was the first in a series that sought to overturn Roe v. Wade, not because he wanted to drop-kick newborns into biohazard bins.

I know what you’re thinking, “Those Republicans sure are terrible.” Democrats would never use the Internet to spread deceit like that. Oh wait, my bad; they did. By now, we all know that Bristol Palin — Gov. Sarah Palin’s 17-year-old daughter — is pregnant. But several weeks ago there was an online movement started by the Daily Kos to expose that Sarah’s infant son, Trig, was in fact Bristol’s, and that Sarah was trying to cover it up by posing as his mother.

At first, there was some compelling evidence for the rumor. However, as it became increasingly apparent that it was all baloney, many of the Democrats in an online forum I frequent continued to pursue it fervently, intent on spreading shaky evidence to give Obama a boost. “I don’t even care if it’s true or not,” wrote one commenter, “As long as it ruins (Sarah Palin).”

Why are people doing this? It reflects poorly on your candidates when you do. Political discourse has never been a game played over tea and crumpets, but lately it’s been getting ridiculous.

Then again, we don’t exactly have great role models, especially with both candidates telling straight-up lies about each other. There’s the infamous McCain ad claiming that Obama wanted to provide sexual education to kindergarteners, which he did, if you consider “what to do if someone touches you inappropriately” to be sex education. Then there’s the Obama ad that accuses McCain of wanting the war in Iraq to go on for 100 years. McCain did say he wouldn’t be opposed to a century-long presence in Iraq, but only a nonviolent one, like the one we have in Japan today.

OK, so the candidates themselves are jerks, too. But why does it have to be that way? Instead of meeting their opponents on dirty ground, why can’t they make more ads exposing the other guy’s tricks, thereby giving themselves some moral superiority? All of this is hurting people who want to make informed decisions.

I can’t do much about what Obama and McCain are up to, but I can yell at young campaigners in a newspaper column. So I will: Knock it off. I mean it. Seriously, if you guys keep this up, my swing vote is going to Ross Perot.

Eileen Stahl can be reached at efstahl@umich.edu.

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