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#21. Negative campaigning

It is about a week before Election Day in many cities and a few states across America, which means one thing: its attack ad time.

So pull up a chair, toss a bag of popcorn in the microwave and sit back and enjoy another season of negative campaigning.

I know what they say: no one likes negative campaigning, it’s deceitful, it turns people off politics and it somehow obscures the issues. But it is also funny, interesting and the closest thing to physical combat we get in elections.

What’s more, I would argue that much negative campaigning is actually refreshingly honest.

It is not honest in the sense that the claims made in the ads are always—or even most of the time—true. But rather, negative campaigning is honest in the sense that attack ads—at least the good ones—target character, not policy, and it is character that matters in elections.

Everyone says that they vote based on the issues, but this is a lie. People vote for candidates they connect with emotionally. The issues are little white lies we tell so that we don’t feel so bad about supporting candidates for irrational reasons.

The best attack ads are not the boring ones about raising taxes or hurting the environment, but the ones that undermine your emotional connection with a candidate. After all, who wants to vote for the guy that might be a sex offender, even if he is great on the issues?

Of course, 2009 doesn’t even have any regular congressional races on the ballot, which means it is kind of like spring training for attack ad fans. So just in case you’re in a part of the country with no contentious races on the ballot, here is one of my favorite negative ads to hold you over until 2010.

God Bless America and God Bless the humorous attack ad!

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  1. Max says:

    Negative campaigning is not limited to politics, either. A few weeks ago, I saw an ad attacking the MGM Casino, fully paid for by Greektown. (I can’t find it online, otherwise I would have sent it to you the day I saw it).

    1. nowooski says:

      That is amazing!

      I have always been hoping for negative campaigning between fast food establishments. Maybe there could be something along the lines of Wendy’s claiming that Taco Bell has dirty kitchens.

      It would be awesome.

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