Off the Press

November 6, 2012

By Kathleen R. Merrill

Political ads turn downright scary

Kathleen R. Merrill
Press managing editor

Last week, there was one day that I was literally sick to my stomach. No, not because I ate too much Halloween candy. Instead, it was because of all of the hate and ugliness in political ads.

Oh yeah. You know the ones I’m talking about:

“If he’s elected, my opponent will make sure you lose your house, and your kids go hungry and your dog dies.”

“My opponent is not who he says he is. He’s a big, fat liar.”

“My opponent has an autographed picture of Osama bin Laden on his desk.”

“My opponent has not been honest with the American people.”

“My opponent eats puppies for breakfast and drowns kittens on weekends.”

“My opponent pushes elderly people down the stairs whenever no one is looking.”

“My opponent has been married 17 times.”

The problem is that once someone steps off the step and descends into mean, the slope becomes slippery. People then go lower and lower. And in this tit-for-tat world, it seems never-ending.

I was talking about this with a friend, and I totally agreed with him when he said that using negativity ends up with candidates selling themselves short.

It seems like more candidates than ever are running negative campaigns and ads. I know from voicemails and emails that people are sick, sick, sick of it.

“Politics can get heated and, sometimes, downright mean,” Reagan Dunn, a candidate for attorney general, wrote in a campaign email. “But, there is a reason that people like Bob Ferguson and I run for office. We have a strong desire to see that the future we hand to our children is prosperous and safe.”

See, that’s the kind of spirit people should have, in every ad, in every email, at every debate.

Here’s what I want to see in ads and what I want to know about you and your campaign: What are you going to do for me once you’re in office? I don’t want to know how much the guy or gal running against you sucks. I don’t want to hear about how he or she got a traffic ticket a million years ago or how you heard that he or she once made a mistake. (And those two examples are putting it very mildly.)

Tell me who you are, not who the other person isn’t (at least in your opinion or the opinion of someone you’ve hired to help you campaign). Tell me what you think, not what you think your opponent thinks. Tell me what you know, not what the other candidate doesn’t. (And how do you know what he or she thinks or knows anyway?)

Tell me your hopes and dreams, and whether you will work to make my hopes and dreams come true. Now that’s campaigning I could go for.


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