Friday, October 01, 2010

The Campaigns Go Negative

This is a hilarious parody of Alan Grayson's by-now-notorious "Taliban Dan" ad, aimed at an opponent who -- surprise, surprise! -- is leading him in the polls.

And then there is this, my favorite parody attack ad:

Seriously, though, folks, with the nation within sight of a serious fiscal crisis, isn't the current plague of negative campaigning simply irresponsible? One of the cliches of the punditry is that (a) people say in poll after poll that they hate negative ads, but (b) they work. I think this time (b) will turn out to be false. With the nation in sight of a serious fiscal crisis, most people will see these attack ads as something akin to fiddling while Rome burns. If your opponent has committed a felony, by all means expose it. Otherwise, talk about the issues! Update: Note the refinement/revision of the above that I introduce in response to a comment, below.


The Uncredible Hallq said...

I don't want much television, so it's hard for me to speculate on negative ads in general, you have to ask what the purpose of the ads is. I recently saw an attack ad against a Democratic incumbent whose main criticism of the incumbent was "He mostly agrees with Obama." I assume the point of the ad was not to appeal to swing voters, but was essentially a "get out the vote" effort for the Republican base.

Though in principle, I'm not sure what the problem with negative ads are. Sure, if you do a telephone poll asking people "does negativity make you feel yucky?" most people will say "yes." I don't see what the problem would be with an ad that had an intelligent criticism of the incumbent.

The trouble is not with negativity, but with the fact that political consultants have figured out that the average TV-watching voter is pretty dumb.

Lester Hunt said...

You have a good point there. I was being woefully imprecise. What I really had in mind was personal attacks, not negativity. The "Taliban Dan" ad is a personal attack, and is grossly dishonest to boot (quoting the opponent in a way that reversed the meaning of what he said).

On the other hand, what the Nietzsche joke ad does is perfectly legitimate, because it is the issues. The "he votes with Obama" ad falls into the same category, I would say.

In a non-catastrophic election year I would say that even personal attacks (the "he once cheated on his wife" ad) can be legitimate. After all, if Sen. Snort cheated on Mrs. Snort, that's evidence - tho' extremely weak evidence - that he might cheat us. However, now that several state gov'ts are headed for fiscal crackups and the feds are steering toward the same brick wall, such concerns are the merest distractions.

Obama had an adulterous affair about six years ago, but quite rightly nobody gives a damn. That's Michelle's problem.

Anonymous said...

Alan Grayson's campaign lost an opportunity with this "gift" of an ad. It was funny, and had that Jon Stewart/The Daily Show appeal. He should run it with a follow-up ad of more examples of how evil he is: His kids saying he won't give us candy before bed. His wife saying I have to arrange flowers because he sends me them everyday. His dog saying he makes me take walks. The parodies would attract the youth vote.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

I should clarify--the "he votes with Obama" ad was done in a somewhat obnoxious way that I suspect would tend to turn off people who weren't already going to vote Republican. "Negativity" would come to mind in a lot of people's heads there. That doesn't make it inherently illegitimate, though.

Lester Hunt said...

Sometimes the line between attacking someone on the issues and committing character-assassination can be pretty blurry.