Recent election cycles are like lingering hangovers. Between the prolonged vote counting and political pundit post-mortems, the discomfort goes on and on and on. So please forgive me for adding to your pain, but I have a few observations to share.
- Negative advertising is like wrestling with a pig.
“Never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.” It is a bit unclear as to whether this quote came from George Bernard Shaw or Mark Twain but its message is undeniable – especially as it relates to political advertising.
There’s doubt even if negative advertising works. We have seen time and again that candidates who resort to negative advertising and have tons of money to air their commercials often win. But at what cost? The willingness to throw mud at one’s rival inevitably raises questions about the attacker’s own sense of fairness, ethics and basic human decency.
The aggressor may get elected, but the voters never really feel good about their choice. So, the base of support is often shaky, at best, and thus making that politician vulnerable to attacks from later competitors or at any hint of scandal.
- It’s a matter of trust.
Trust has been compared to a savings account. When one performs ethically, a deposit is made, and the account grows. Conversely, negative actions are a withdrawal from the bank of trust. Over time, this erosion undermines the perceived credibility of the individual who engages in those activities and weakens not only the perpetrator but the institution she/he represents.
- Can we please start playing fair?
Gerrymandering for the purpose of manipulating voting districts for competitive advantages is patently unfair and unethical. Yet, it is a sin committed equally by both Democrats and Republicans. And there is no better example of its impact than Indiana.
Balancing the scales means taking the drawing of voting districts out of the hands of politically motivated state legislatures and putting it in the hands of independent commissions. To the best of my knowledge, only nine states have enacted this commonsense approach. It’s time for all states, regardless of which party is in power, to level the playing field.
- Money is the root of all political evil.
Recent decisions notwithstanding, I would like to believe that most of our Supreme Court justices try to be as fair and objective as humanly possible. However, SCOTUS is not infallible. And one of the major mistakes the court has made is the Citizens United case in 2020. That ruling opened the floodgates of money that not only produces a nauseating amount of political advertising, but also skews our elections in favor of the candidates with the biggest war chests.
I’m not a constitutional scholar or lawyer, but there has to be a way to rein in all the mad money in politics.