By Wayne William Cipriano
They say there are going to be fewer political advertisements on television this election cycle mainly because fewer people are watching television. We will see about that.
They also say there will be fewer negative political ads this time around because negative ads do not seem to be as effective as they once were. We will have to see about that, too.
Have you ever wondered about the label “negative ad”? It seems like every time a politician says anything about an opponent it is considered negative advertising. If you want to make that the definition (any ad saying anything financed by one candidate about another candidate is a negative ad) you can. But it seems to me that a negative ad should say something, well, negative.
We might consider a politician supporting a tax hike (if we pay taxes) or a tax cut (if we receive a tax-financed benefit) a ‘negative’ and an opponent who publicizes that behavior is making a ‘negative ad’, but the very same legislative goal might be a ‘positive’ if we liked it.
You would think a ‘negative ad’ would have to say something that was almost universally held to be ‘bad’ and believed to be truthful for the ad to work as expected. But even if those requirements were satisfied, an aspirant to elected office still has to be very careful.
A candidate seeking to employ a ‘negative ad’ might, for example, mendaciously accuse an opponent of being a ‘pot-smoking, liberal, loud-mouthed braggart” but in a very close national election that falsely accused opponent could very well carry the states of Washington, Colorado, Massachusetts, California and Texas…just because of that ad!
Why not avoid even the potential risk ‘negative ads’ could embody? Why not just tell the truth about an opponent and let the electorate decide? And then why doesn’t the same candidate tell the truth about exactly what she or he plans to do and exactly how they plan to do it?
No, really, stop laughing! I’m serious!