As the presidential builds up to its Autumn climax, we are bombarded with negative political ads as well as accusations being flung back and forth by various cable news organizations. As strange as this may sound, I want to take a moment to recognize the importance of these negative ads in the political process and give you hope for a more productive and constructive debate in the fall.
The purpose of a negative ad, also known as an attack ad, is to discredit your opponent’s ability to fulfill their promises or ability to even effectively function in the office they are running for. An incumbent, meaning the guy who already has the job, tends to use less of these simply because he can use his own successful past in the office to prove that he should be reelected. The challenger however needs to not only prove that not only is he qualified for the job, but that he can do it a lot better than the other guy. In this sense, a series of ads focusing on the incumbents weakness seem to make sense.
In the current presidential race, there is a lot of mud being flung from both sides. Obama’s campaign is noted for criticizing the allegedly incredible amount of attack ads coming from the Romney campaign. The Romney camp’s only real retort is, “hey, we’re not the only ones.”
Something like over 90% of advertising, from both sides, is negative. This frustrates Americans. However, if Romney is going to prove to the American people that it is worth cutting out President Obama after only one term, he’s going to have to have proof. He’s got to convince the American people that they are not better off than they were 4 years ago and they won’t be any better 4 years from now if Obama is re-elected. Obama on the other hand is responding by fighting fire with fire. He constantly attacks Romney’s business record, in a way trying to convince America that, “sure things aren’t great right now, but it could be worse with that guy.” I could write a whole separate article about that very mindset, but I’ll move on.
This myriad of negative advertising, especially from the Romney side, has left a bad taste in people’s mouths. They’re asking, “Okay, so Obama is bad. But what are you going to do? What can you bring to the table to make this any better?” To those people, I say, hold out a little longer. Your answers will come. By that I mean that the substantive talk about more specific policy will come as we get closer to November. Now as our 44th President loves to say, “let me be clear,” and say that Romney has come out with specific plans. Obama is already criticizing those plans as proof to their existence. You can go to http://www.mittromney.com to read those plans. They exist. But they will become more apparent and the talk of more media organizations in the near future. Why is that?
That is because right now, Mitt Romney is working hard to convince America that this is possible, that it is possible to remove Obama from the White House. Especially after a typically brutal primary campaign and republican infighting, most American’s figured that Obama had it in the bag and that there’s really no hope for change. Americans have felt that if they have to choose between two evils, they would rather choose a known evil. This is why Romney has been working to hard to make a case for not only his election, but Obama’s removal. And with every attack on Obama, there is a rebuttal and an attack in return. It’s a nasty war that is being fought on the TV screens of unsuspecting residents of swing states.
But don’t worry, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That light is studio lights of red, white, and blue, lighting the stages that will hold the 2012 Presidential Debates. That is where the real progress will be made. As it stands now, we have the candidates and their supporters filling the air waves with accusations and attacks against their opponent. Every time, the accusation is supported by some sort of “fact.” But facts are a fickle thing since any number can be twisted to mean whatever you want. Don’t believe me? When the August jobs report comes out, just watch how the democrats use it as “proof” that Obama is succeeding and the republicans use the same report as undeniable “proof” that Obama has failed. Though slightly informative, this type of debate is extremely ineffective.
On the debate stage, it becomes much more difficult to throw out some number or “fact” and have it be blindly accepted. Their opponent will be standing just feet away from them with their own “facts” which will also be examined and attacked. In such a manner we get closer to the heart and truth of the issue at hand. Yes it’s messy, yes sometimes it’s uncivilized, but it’s debate. This type of debate, without teleprompters and inspirational music in the background will finally show us what these candidates are made of.
At the debates, Romney will finally come out swinging and make his case for the presidency. He will remind us that it isn’t over ’till it’s over and that he is the man to replace Barack Obama and bring about the change that America needs. Obama is of course going to try and prove him wrong, but the only way he will be able to make a strong enough case is by running on his record. The American people are tired of excuses.
So the next time you hear an angry talk show host, or news anchor, or even candidate slinging mud to the other side, try to recognize its role in the process and remember that the debates aren’t far away. We look forward to the debates, not because it’s another excuse for the candidates to yell at each other, but so that finally we can hear some actual substance that must be backed up by acceptable facts.
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