Like most of you, I really, really hate negative political campaigning. The obvious response is “get over it. It works.” I prefer to simply turn it off; I love the power of the mute button!
A recent article, however, caught my eye. Entitled “A Few Words in Defense of Negative Campaigning,” author Michael Barone poses a few comments in praise of negative ads.
First, elections are an adversary business, zero-sum games in which only one candidate can win. All candidates have weaknesses and have made mistakes. Second, negative ads can be inaccurate and unfair. But so can positive ads. And the facts will ultimately come out. Third, advertising is not always decisive. Other things can matter more.
And Barone dismisses the disdain of the “high-minded” who are concerned that the ads will “erode Americans’ faith in politics and government,” saying we haven’t had faith in big government, big business and big labor since the 1960s.
Wow! I am getting old. Yes, elections are adversarial, but not boxing matches. The tone of the negative ads purposely creates anger. Frankly, I don’t make the best decisions when I’m angry. In fact, I often make mistakes when I’m angry!!
And the statement that yes, the ads are inaccurate but it will all wash out; who is doing the washing? The pace of ads is so fast and furious it is virtually impossible to fact check everything, even if the viewer actually took the time to read the analysis. James Poniewozik puts the onus on news media to do the work. But if news media chooses to challenge a fact, it is immediately (and effectively) labeled as biased and something to be ignored.
Advertising is not always decisive. Really? Then why do we do it? And the Super-PACs are game changers, right?.
The sound bites highlighting healthcare reform are solidly in this mix. Are we destined to make the tough decisions about the healthcare for our citizens and communities based on anger, misinformation and who has the most money to fill the airways???