Updated: Jul 2, 2019
It's all around us; car horns, loud music , babies crying, people shouting. There’s just no escaping the noise. When it comes to politics, the noise can be deafening. Campaign ads seem to start sooner and sooner.
Like Christmas season, everyone is trying to get a jump on the competition, which, in this case, means your donations. A major way to do this is to create as much noise as possible by smearing the opposition.
In the old days, it used to be called mud slinging. During the Nixon era it took on the more colorful description based upon the mating habits of a particular vermin. The purpose was to somehow create a negative image of the opposing candidates while elevating your own.
The problem with this is, while you’re attempting to attract voters, others are trying to tear you down. While most elections start off with a pledge to run “a clean campaign”, they inevitably are dragged into the mud out if necessity to improve their own appearance.
An advantage of incumbency is that you rarely face a challenge that would cause a primary opponent to tear down. Primary losers are faced with the uncomfortable task of speaking positively about someone they were previously attempting to defeat. Incumbents are given a free arsenal of insults and potential weaknesses based upon what was said during the primary battles.
In this era of 24 hour news and social media , each misstep and accusation is magnified because it is seen over and over again. It is fodder for late night comics and meat for your opponents. The problem is, it distracts from the actual issues.
Who can forget the image of Michael Dukakis in a tank, Gerald Ford stumbling or Hillary Clinton becoming ill at a 9/11 ceremony? While none of these had anything to do with their ability to govern, they were seized upon by their opponents, and often became the death knell of their campaigns.
Is it even possible to shut out the noise and focus on the issues? The present era of name-calling, social media has elevated mud slinging to a new level. Many people are too tempted to focus on the “shiny object” that the insults address and ignore the facts.
Let’s hope this election is different. Let’s hope a more informed populace focuses on the issues and not the noise.