Mad Men 2010.
That's the briefest and best description of this election campaign.
It's like the award-winning AMC TV show about an ad firm, updated from the 1960s to the present.
The Supreme Court decided in January that, when it comes to political campaigning, money is essentially equivalent to speech. Since then, ads have almost totally eclipsed debates and interviews in informing voters about candidates and issues.
The characters from the show would love having many new clients to serve and receive huge fees from. Maybe next season they will jump forward 40 plus years to our time and serve the elephant and the donkey and individual candidates as well as Pepsi and Gillette.
That would make for good TV drama. In real life, however, money as speech has some problems. First of all, it isn't true. Money is not speech anymore than corporations are persons (but that is another story of another unfortunate court decision).
One commentator actually said that the money/speech decision guaranteed free speech. This clearly does not compute. If money is speech, how can speech be free? Money is not free.
Further breaking down the logical connection between money and speech is the notion of buying free speech. If you buy it, it isn't free. And if you buy it with something, that something you bought it with can't be what you bought.
The whole idea is ridiculous and is a good example of what logicians call a category error: acting as though an object has properties which it does not have, properties that belong to objects in another category or class.
Yet for almost all of 2010, this ridiculous idea has been the law of the land.
And ain't it great? Now we are really bombarded by ads ads ads, such as the Pomeroy and Berg ones.
Who has listened to any of these frequently repeated ads more than once? Yet they keep coming, probably burning out the mute button on some remotes.
And for us having to deal with these ads, what about our free speech? The people with the money for ads are able to reach and influence many more people than we can.
Free speech is largely gone. Speech has to be bought, and only a few can afford it. We have less of a democracy, government by the people, and more of a plutocracy, government by the wealthy.
Campaigns don't have to be this way, and they aren't in many other countries, such as England and Canada. They are much shorter and spend considerably less money.
And there are more debates and interviews, where voters can make up their own minds rather than being worn down into submission by the repetition of sound-bite half-truths and outright lies.
Yes, here in the so-called land of the free, we the people have had our voices muted by the amplified voices of those capable of buying media time. So we fight back in kind, pushing the mute button.
The attack ads, of course, don't just attack the opposition candidate; they attack our peace and quiet.
What a year: Mad Men 2010.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily News)