The 2022 midterms are over. One thing that struck me about this campaign season is the number of campaign attack ads that I watched, not because I wanted to, but because they were everywhere — on national and local TV broadcasts and on YouTube videos.
Can we agree that political ads are attempts to get voters to “hire” a candidate or “fire” the incumbent who belongs to the opposing party? I look at elections as a form of job interview, but the ads don’t follow a job-interview format.
How many potential employees sit down for a job interview and tell the interviewer that they should be hired because the other candidate is terrible? Is that rational? Does lying about their opponent’s positions on issues make any sense? Should candidates be elected because they happen to be “movie star” beautiful, or should they be hired based upon their wisdom, maturity, experience, and character?
Since you know who won and who lost in the election, and I don’t, and you know what you were thinking when you filled in the ballot bubble, I’d like you to reflect on your decision-making process when you voted.
Did you vote for a candidate because they were Democrat or Republican or Independent, and not because of what they believed and stated publicly about their positions? Did you consider whether, in the light of the Jan. 6 insurrection, you should vote for a candidate who believed the election was “stolen”, despite overwhelming evidence, court decisions, and testimony that prove the opposite? How rational were you in your choices?
Another issue in the attack ads is whether the candidate really has any power to change the issues that bother you. Did you vote against a candidate because “Joe Biden caused inflation” when with just a few moments of thought, you would realize that the war in Ukraine has caused a rise in the cost of both fuel and food — creating worldwide inflation, not just in the U.S.? Did you expect that there wouldn’t be a personal cost to you — in the form of inflation — that Americans must bear as a result?
Did you vote against an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives or U.S. Senate because they supported a Washington state income tax, even though that is a state issue, and not a national issue? Additionally, the Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that income taxes are unconstitutional, making the whole question moot.
Did you vote against a national candidate because crime has increased in Washington state? Again, it is a local issue that one U.S. representative or senator has no power to control. If you voted for a candidate because he was going to “make crime illegal again”, did you know what that candidate’s plan was?
If you’re wondering why there was so much lying in the campaign ads you and I were deluged with, the answer is that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2012 “United States v. Alverez” that lying during political campaigns was constitutionally protected under the First Amendment’s free speech protections. This decision was later ratified in 2014 by a unanimous Supreme Court in the “Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus” decision when the Court struck down an Ohio law which stated, “it is a criminal offense in Ohio to make a knowingly or recklessly ‘false’ statement about a political candidate or ballot initiative.” (“Tim Burke: Supreme Court: it’s OK to lie in a political campaign” Pahrump Valley Times, May 29, 2020).
Why do campaign ads work? Because humans tend to believe negative information more quickly than positive news. According to Burke, here’s the strategy:
“Identify the primary topics that are emotional ‘hot buttons’ for voters. Label your opponent as someone opposed to voters’ position on the hot-button topic. Spread that lie through campaign fliers and social media campaigns. Those hot button topics get voters fired up, and the tactic depends on voters blindly believing the lie on face value without looking into the facts.”
Is that what you did in the recent campaign? If it is, learn from your mistakes and gullibility. Research the candidates. Democracy is too important an issue for voters to believe the lies in attack ads.