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Negative campaign ads disrespect voters

October 25, 2010

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting very sick of all the negative political campaign ads.  Here we are, about a week away from elections across the country, and you can’t go more than five minutes without seeing some nasty ad on TV, hearing candidates slam each other on the radio, or be exposed to another special interest group blathering on about how voting for Candidate X is a vote against women, minorities, workers, families…

Does it really have to be this way?

I know it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and this is all par for the course. But, it’s ugly.  I think it’s unnecessary. The political mud-slinging and last-minute “let’s dig out the dirt” is certainly showing a lack of respect toward the other candidates in the race, but I say it’s worse than that. It’s actually disrespectful to us, the voters.

Because these campaigns seem to focus on what is wrong with the other candidate, it’s like saying we, as voters, don’t have enough common sense to make up our own minds. So, when Candidate Y is drumming up negative ads that talk about how Candidate X is pro-life, and stating this means he wants to take away a woman’s control of her body and life is not only an attack against the candidate, it implies we women are somehow not intelligent enough or savvy enough to check out the candidate’s record and position on our own. And, when Candidate X slams back at the negative ads posted by Candidate Y, the motive is “let’s pile higher and deeper and SHOW why you can’t trust Candidate Y’s ads against ME because Candidate Y is an even BIGGER liar.”

Ok, but we all know that many of the candidates themselves don’t put out these ads….but their “supporters” do. So, one could rationalize that it’s not the Candidate’s actual mud-slinging…it’s the special interests groups or those “supporters” who want to make sure the American People get the “facts.”  Well and good…but how many times to you hear at the end of these ads, “I’m Candidate Y and I approved this message.” So, Candidate Y, you may not have put out the money to produce and air the ad, but you sure as heck have endorsed it. Guilt by commission.

We have so come to expect this garbage during political season that I think the campaign managers think it’s the only way to operate. If we don’t do “negative campaigning” then we can’t compete.  I would argue a different position. As I talk about in my book, “It’s Not Who You Know, It’s How You Treat Them,” we have become so accustomed to the rude, crude and indifferent in this world that those individuals and organizations who are practicing respect and fairness toward others are actually standing out.  Imagine if you took this concept to the political world: Candidate Z refuses, as part of his/her position, to engage in negative campaigning tactics. I know this seems a ridiculous position for me to take because everyone is screaming — “it’ll never happen. The other Candidates would eat us alive if we didn’t fight back.”

I don’t think so. If a Candidate truly stuck to what’s good about his/her platform, what he/she has done that is effective, taking ownership for past mistakes and stuck to the facts — in an objective way — when addressing the shortcomings of the other candidate, I think Candidate Z would rise head and shoulders over the competition.  We want things to be fair and if Candidate X or Y is busy being the usual negative, “anti-respect” campaigner that they usually are, yet Candidate Z refuses to engage in the BS…well, I think the results would be eye-opening.

And, as far as “sponsored” ads are concerned, Candidate Z makes it clear there is no “endorsement” of those types of messages.  “We play fair” could be the rallying point. We know from polls that Americans are tired of the negative, ugly ads…so why not try a tactic that shows how the Candidate listens and responds to what they hear.

I know this may seem naive, but I think it’s a strategic advantage. Let all the juveniles continue their scrapping and back-biting in the political sandbox…meanwhile, Candidate Z shows self-control, self-discipline and treats even his/her nasty opponents with civility and respect.

That, my friends, would be CHANGE. And it’s high-time we took steps to get there. We might even find, that in a true arena of even competition and fairness, that voters would be more willing to cast their ballots because they finally feel someone is wiling to talk about issues, answer questions and let the voters decide, instead of trying to win by out-assassinating other’s character and position.

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