It’s time to attack political attack ads

attack adI don’t know about you, but I despise political attack ads. The volume, frequency and tawdriness of the ads can absolutely ruin the viewing pleasure of anyone’s favorite program. They can also alienate a voter to the point where he doesn’t even vote. I know many people in the latter camp.

And, here’s a sobering statistic, political attack ads are becoming become more frequent with each passing election. According to The New York Times Senate candidates this year have spent some $200 million attacking their opponents — a significantly greater sum that during the 2010 midterms. Imagine if that money had been allocated, instead, towards research or education.

And, yet, according to Joan Phillips, a researcher at the Quinlan School of Business, political attack ads work. She says that, especially in presidential campaigns, attack ads will motivate a voter who was leaning towards one candidate to change her mind. With all due respect, I say balderdash.

I know countless people who are not only turned off by the ads but, critically, see their once favorite candidate in a whole new, negative light. That’s because these ads tarnish the image and reputation of the politician who’s slinging the mud; not the one on the receiving end of the barrage.

Agree or disagree with me, I’ll bet we do share one common feeling: we’re thrilled that this is the last day we’ll have to see all those nasty, sleazy ads (at least until the 2016 campaign kicks off in earnest).

Oh, and I forgot to mention, I’m Steve Cody and I approved this blog.

12 thoughts on “It’s time to attack political attack ads

  1. One last thing on this post. Only 37% of the eligible voters turned out for this midterm election. What the hell is wrong with people?

    • Donna – There are a lot of things that alienate the 63%. For starters, there is always going to be an element of the electorate that is apathetic and cynical about the process. Who knows what that percentage has grown to since Watergate?

      Next, you have voter ID laws to keep away racial and ethnic groups. They often prey on fear, ignorance and subtle intimidation.

      After that comes the ads themselves. They turn people off. Combine that with the fact that both Houses and most state legislatures accomplish nothing or only help the wealthy. People’s cynicism, anger or indifference causes them to tune out or vote for the names they recognize.

      Then come the passionate “issues” voters who hate a particular candidate, with no effective counter-weight from voters moved to simply perform their civic duty. That certainly happened on Tuesday.

      Finally, going to the polls is awful nowadays, at least in NY State. I was a poll worker, and the experience is depressing in many ways. They assigned me to my parents’ old neighborhood in Brooklyn. Only 232 people turned out for 2 election districts. The best part of the day was lunch at Rocco’s Calamari.

      It’s really better to get an absentee ballot, but most people don’t. If you do show up, you must go to a “privacy booth” to fill out the ballot like a multiple choice test. The graphics are small and horrendous. Senior citizens find it impossible. Even many younger voters ended up filling it out wrong. That part can take anywhere from 2 to 10 minutes.

      After that, you have to bring it to a scanner. If you filled it out right, great, you’re done. If not, you have to start all over again.

      Worse, there is no privacy in your vote when this happens. 9 out of 10 voters let election workers see what they did wrong. And if you screw up a second time, the poll workers have to help you. The only thing that keeps a semblance of fairness to election day is the inherent decency of most poll workers.

      Why they didn’t go straight from the old mechanical machines to updated, electronic one-step booths is a mystery to me. Or maybe not. The process is so rife with potential corruption it’s disgusting.

    • Credit my brilliance — it only took me about 30 years to figure this out on my own.

    • Those ads are put together in hours from generic and stock images, w/scary music and production values would make Ed Wood cringe in his grave. The only “creativity” comes from the horrible things being said about the opposition.

      One other thing: attack ads only “work” in that they keep people away from the polls. Political strategists know that if you turn off 60% of the voting public, the passionate ones who hate the other candidate can give you the win. That certainly happened yesterday: voters who were fed up stayed home (because voting “only encourages them”), and voters who were angry voted. Talk about vicious cycles.

  2. Not to mention, many of the ads look like they were designed by a 5th grader in MS Word, and closely resemble those ugly real estate advertisements we all “love” seeing. Not only are they disgustingly hideous and trite, but also heinous – balder-freakin-dash is right!

  3. Agree with all of you. And for those who stayed home, remember that non-action gets us the government we deserve.

  4. Great post Steve! You’re right on the money here. And it’s all about the money-who and what it can buy. Having suffered through months of Hagan-Tillis mudslinging ads here in NC, I am grateful this election cycle comes to a close.

  5. Agreed, Donna. The machine has taken over politics. And, it’s attracted the lowest common denominator in terms of candidates. Not good when we’re faced with various crises around the world. We need the best and brightest right now, not a bunch of mudslingers.

  6. Great and of course timely post! I agree with you and also have a huge problem with “phantom” ads posted by Super PACs wherein the candidate has not asked for this kind of ad so they are “not” approved by the candidate. This is also on both sides here. We don’t have any say in any election anymore. Our country is run by corporations, including the Supreme Court. Lame duck session here we come.