Friday, April 13, 2012

Getting what we ask for

Jesse Unruh, former Speaker of the California Assembly, is quoted saying, "Money is the mother's milk of politics," and clearly there is no shortage of milk for the 2012 presidential campaign. An incredible amount of money has already been sunk into the nomination spend-a-thon, and the general election campaign is just beginning.

Operatives from both political parties are working untold hours trying to create a negative impression of the opposition. Creating an effective negative image is much easier than a positive one. With most states falling solidly in one or the other party's camp, only a few "swing" states matter in electoral-college counts. The amount of actual candidate money available plus the astronomical figures that will be spent by political action committees and "super pacs" will make it is possible to buy out every available TV spot in those states just to tell us how bad the other guy is.

There is a cost for all the negativity that will spew out in the coming months. Consider the cynicism that resulted from the implication that Barry Goldwater, a distinguished U.S. senator, was somehow responsible for a small child being immolated in an atomic mushroom cloud, or from calling Sen. John Kerry, a Silver Star winner, "anti-American."

We all complain about negative campaigning, but we all remember the false charges and the repeated half-truths and no-truths. Despite our righteous indignation, Goldwater and Kerry never recovered from the smears. As long as we are willing to listen and act on negative campaigns, candidates will use them. Don't pretend we didn't ask for what's coming.

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