Negative Political Ads Done Right

29 09 2011

As much as the political process interests me, there is one inevitable part of any election season that I cannot stand – those obnoxious, negative ads that just whack away at the candidate that the group who paid for the ad doesn’t like. Around a week prior to the election it’s practically raining negative ads – they’re on the internet, the radio, and they are all over TV – to the point that at the end of your day, unless you are either working on the campaign for, or personally close to one of the candidates,  you’ve heard so much about lies told and dirty deals hatched that you don’t want to vote for either of them. They both look like dishonest, cheating, morons and, frankly, they do that to themselves.

We hear this every couple of years. “Everybody hates these attack ads,” and yet the attacks return when the elections do. They come back because, as much as everyone says they don’t like them, studies have shown that they work. They get remembered and they get results. My father told me that he still remembers a negative ad run by Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964 and that it played a role in his voting for LBJ. That ad is known as the “Daisy” ad and insinuated that Goldwater’s A-bomb friendly attitudes could lead to World War III if his itchy trigger finger was in control of the red button. Just as Ronald Reagan’s “It’s Morning Again in America” ad defined his 1984 re-election bid, the “Daisy” ad came to define Barry Goldwater’s candidacy and did a lot to lose that election for him.

It seems like every campaign enters in a race to come up with the next “Daisy” ad – the next attack that so effectively vilifies their opponent that it goes down in political history and is referenced in poli-sci classes (and in the writings of political geeks) for decades to come. That makes for some very unpalatable advertisements invading our every information source. It’s already well underway for the poor souls who live in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire. Thankfully, amid all the allegations and insinuations, one can occasionally find a bit of a humor. This is from Texas Democrats and is aimed at Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry. It made me chuckle and I wanted to share it.

And you know what, for any more Republican leaning individuals that have kept reading this post and made it this far, I have something for you, too. It is from the campaign of Roger Williams a Republican running for the US House of Representatives from Texas.

Now, obviously I don’t agree with Mr. Williams’ characterization of Democrats, but I have to admit the ad is clever. I wish we had more of these kind of negative ads. Cute, snarky ads get the message across without leaving people pondering whether or not they want to vote at all. These are attack ads done right. Politicos, take note.





She’s In!

15 09 2011

I’ve never had much of a desire to live in Massachusetts. It’s not that I don’t like the place – my cousin used to live there and one of my aunts lives there with her husband – it’s just never had the same appeal that New York or DC have for me. That said, tonight I wish I lived in Massachusetts because then I would be able to cast a vote for Elizabeth Warren. Today Dr. Warren formally announced her candidacy for United States Senator from Massachusetts. Elizabeth Warren has been an advocate for middle and lower-income people and workers for a long time. She was the architect of the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but Republicans made it clear that they would fight her confirmation so President Obama never nominated her to run the agency she put together. Since the end of her service in the administration that wouldn’t bother to defend her in the confirmation process the question of whether or not she would run for the Senate has been out there. Today she gave her answer – she’s in. I wish she were running in the great state of Connecticut so I could not only vote for her but maybe even work for her campaign, but alas, all I can do is put a link to her website  – elizabethwarren.com – up one my blog and wish her the best of luck.





Michelle Obama, You Were Right

14 09 2011

I’ve been trying to watch at least part of the Republican debates in the name of remaining well-informed. Frankly,the fact that one of these people might be president disturbs me, but their audience disturbs me more. Last week, in response to a question about the 234 executions carried out during Rick Perry’s tenure as governor of Texas, the crowd broke into cheers. Cheers?!

My issue is not over the death penalty itself. I have my opinions on the issue and I think responsible people can intelligently debate its pros and cons all day long. What I found so jarring was the raucous applause and whoops from the audience. We’re talking about killing people, not a great football play. Whether or not you believe a criminal deserves to die for their crimes, I think we can all agree that executions aren’t exactly cause for celebration.

Last night I had another of those “what country are these people living in” moments. A hypothetical question was posed to Texas Representative Ron Paul about what should happen to an individual who is uninsured and suddenly needs expensive medical care. Ron Paul tends to get a little long-winded, so the moderator pushed him asking if society should just let the man die which lead to several calls of “Yeah!” from the audience. Not as much glee as the death penalty mention some days before, but still creepy.

It isn’t just the fact that the idea of someone dying really pleases a few of these audience members. The thing that blows my mind is that not one of the candidates stepped up to say one of our strengths as a nation is our compassionate nature and that there would be something out there to keep citizens unable to afford insurance from being forced to go without necessary care. Looking out for one another doesn’t mean the “nanny state” is taking over. It means that we are part of a community – local, state, and national. Remember? “E Pluribus Unum”  – out of many, one. It’s on the national seal. (That was our motto before the 1950’s when “god” was added to our pledge to the flag and our money and the national motto became “In god we trust.”) A conservative can still have a soul, but you’d never know it. Empathy is apparently a facet of godless, socialistic, liberalism which must be abandoned as quickly and completely as possible.

In early 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama’s wife Michelle was taken to task by Republicans (and supporters of Hillary Clinton) for saying that America could be a mean country. Well, Mrs. Obama, I have to say that you were at least partially correct. A country which cheers execution, calls for those can’t afford that which will save their lives to lose their lives, and lacks any feeling for those who don’t plump up some corporation’s bottom line is a mean, mean place. The thing is, that mean place is not where I grew up. I don’t even recognize it. When I was growing up, if someone lost their job due to downsizing, lay-offs, and etc they weren’t the problem, whatever lead to their job going away was. A social security check, and the check and medical benefits of a union pension were the well-earned reward my grandmother and many others of the “greatest generation” received for decades of hard, honest work building our modern society. No one ever said they didn’t deserve it or were stealing from their children and grandchildren. Times have gotten harder, but I don’t think getting meaner as a society will solve anything. I’m hoping that logic will overcome whatever makes seemingly ordinary people cheer death and view compassion as a curse.





John Boehner, Joe Biden, an Unattended, Live Microphone, and What That Should Remind Us

13 09 2011

Before President Obama’s speech on jobs before a joint session of Congress Americans got an unlikely opening act – John Boehner and Joe Biden joking around and talking golf.

Speaker Boehner also had something to say about the Vice President’s wife.

For the record, the Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, is the one in the red dress. You can decide for yourselves whether or not she’s the “cutest one in the row by far,” or not.

You might be wondering why I’m making a fuss over such a few soundbites that are too mundane to be of any importance. They are just basic human interactions. Well, that is exactly why I’m pointing them out.

We long ago forgot that politicians are, in fact, human beings – much like the rest of us only with better connections. Even on the local level – the level I work round as a camera tech for a small town’s government access television channel – a politician with an opposing point of view is not a fellow town resident with whom you have a difference of opinion. No, they are the enemy and no piece of hyperbolic, incendiary language goes too far in describing them and their kind. These alleged “people” across the political aisle are cruel, inhumane, lying, cheating, unpatriotic, anti-American, etc, etc. Pick your adjective, they are nearly innumerable and if you do run out, take a page from the strategy books of several politicos and make some up. Even the politicians from your end of things seem more like robotic characters – or caricatures, depending on the day and the issue – than flesh and bone human beings. Moments like this briefly point out that is not the case. Neither of these gentlemen is the scheming, devious Disney-style villain we might image them to be and they aren’t. They aren’t androids either, though former Vice President Dick Cheney does come the closest to inorganic life with his mechanical heart. (That’s not an attack, by the way, it’s a fact, so relax.) These two men are merely two guys with big, important jobs who enjoy a joke, a good game of golf, and think that Jill Biden looks particularly fetching.Conversations like these happen in workplaces all across the country and might sound familiar if you swap out a few points. If a comment had been made that “anyone who doesn’t like the Yankees is an asshole,” the conversation could’ve gone like this at the water cooler or in the break room of an office in the real world.

John – Hey, I’m one of those assholes you were talking about.

Joe – Haha, yeah, you’re nuts, man. You don’t know what you’re talking about.We have that meeting today. I hope it doesn’t drag on forever.

John – Yeah. So, did I tell you my in-laws are visiting?

Joe – No, how’s that going?

John – Not too bad if you’re comparing it to, say, a root canal. I swear I have no idea how anyone ever slept in their house. Her father snores so loud you can hear it on the other side of the house! And then this morning I’m woken up by my mother-in-law yelling at her husband through the bathroom door. “Harold, do you have a pair of undershorts in there? You have a pair? Did you say yes? Yes? I can’t hear you! I’m bringing you a pair.” I hope I survive to the end of the week.

John – That’s gonna be the two of you in about twenty years. I’ve been meaning to ask you, did you see that new girl? In HR?

John – Yeah, I saw her. Cutest one in the department. By far.

See? Told you.

Politicians are people, even though they don’t always seem like it and even when they say things that we don’t like. At the start of what is sure to be a vicious presidential election process, I think it’s a good thing to be reminded of. I’m not sure the President’s plan of action for jobs really lived up to all the pomp and circumstance of a joint session of Congress but I think getting all of our elected officials together and talking and so on did get them in a slightly less partisan mood and the country needs that every so often.