Thursday, June 29, 2006

Negative Ads and Whisper Campaigns

I heard from a reliable source (neither campaign) that Cox and Taylor both have new ads, slated to air soon, and both ads are bare-knuckle negative. Cox told a group yesterday that this was going to be a three week street fight, and that she grew up in the country and knew who to fight. No doubt. Her prison labor ad is one of the hardest hitting political ads I have seen. Taylor's gotten in his share of licks as well.

Most people will say, me included, that they don't like negative ads. These ads are the sort of thing that make folks cynical about the political process. The kind of thing that makes people believe that all politicians must be corrupt. But, for the candidate, there's is Catch 22, and a stark truth. While a negative ad can blow up in your face and tank a race, for the most part, these ads are effective. Look at the way the polls tightened in the last two weeks. Does anyone really think that the ads had nothing to do with that? So, when it comes to these ads, I don't know whether to fault the candidates or the public. We seem to crave them and respond to the content. I guess it goes to the idea that it's easier to remember something bad about someone than something good. Too bad.

One of the other things that makes negative ads compelling is the frequent use of "whisper campaigns." You know, starting the rumor that you would never be able to broadcast on television- because the rumors are full of half-truths and outright lies. They don't pass the not-so-tough broadcast standards. Rumors about affairs. Rumors about someone's sexuality. Rumors that someone is a racist. It's tough to respond to a whisper campaign because it is covert, and sometimes candidates feel that the negative ad is their only recourse.

That said, I hate these ads, all of them. I'm just not sure who to fault- the electorate or the candidates.


Button Gwinnett said...

I hate these ads too. But like telemarketing, they exist because they work. There is no coincidence that Cox's numbers have jumped by about 14% and the race has tightened to within the margin of error of most polls because Cox's ads have been very effective. But I really wish that it didn't have to be this way. I think campaigning like this discourages a lot of people from getting involved in the process. Also, negative ads take away from what's really more important, and that's what a candidate intends to do in the FUTURE. We have a habit of electing people to high office in this state without a lot of vision. And it has cost our state in some ways. So while they may be effective, I think there are definite drawbacks to negative ads.

While this wouldn't stop negative ads, one way the news media could do a better job of helping voters that wish to know about a candidate's vision, is to ask the candidates to submit to an individual interview where plans for current issues as well as future considerations are discussed. I don't care if the candidates pick the topics. But I'd like to see some probing questions about how a plan might work and how it would be paid for. And if a candidate refused to participate, then they have that choice. But at least the media will have focused on issues and the candidates' particular stances rather than negative ads. But the fact that the news media focuses more on negative ads rather than issues is just another sign that negative ads work and bad news sells.

About whispher campaigns, I know that anytime you become a public figure, you are subject to becoming a target. The problem is that whisper campaign often involve innocent persons too. For instance, I've read where a blogger mentioned the sexuality of one of Cathy's sisters. That's just uncalled for. Even if true, her sister's private life is not for discussion in a political campaign. She didn't ask to be put in this position. And going after Cathy's family isn't necessary to make a point.

On an anti-E-voting site, I've seen where someone said that Cathy Cox married into the Cox family that owns Cox Enterprises and runs the AJC. This was their explanation for Cathy receiving good press, in their view, as opposed to bad press. I guess the idiot didn't know that Cox is Cathy's maiden name and her family's roots are all southwest Georgia. Or did he know and just decide to float that rumor out there anyway?

This has been ugly. And not much good is going to come out of negative ads and whisper campaigns. But for anyone that is out there wishing to run for higher office, they'd better get used to it. Because I don't see this trend getting better anytime soon.

MelGX said...

A very wise friend, who's been involved in hardball politics in Louisiana for years, alwyas says the first rule of negative advertising is that it stops cold 7 days out from election day. Otherwise, the results are brutal. I only hope our team knows this rule.

Tina said...

I will be glad when the primary is over! As for the quality of the candidates in Georgia, it's surely better than it was in the 1940s-1950s. This old lady remembers all those overtly racist campaigns and the wily suspender-snapping Snopeses that got themselves elected. One congressman even introduced legislation in Washington hoping to ban "black blood" to be used in transfusions to whites. Anyone who things things are "awful" now just doesn't know how truly awful (and hateful)it used to me.