No one I’ve ever spoken with nor have I ever heard anyone, anywhere say, “I really like these political attack ads!” In fact, while they run them, frequently pay for them and endorse them, even the politicians will tell you they don’t like using them. This is where the third party, independent Super-PACs, enter the picture as freelancing assassins, choosing their favorite son or daughter, while attempting to take out the opponent.
So the simple argument made by campaigns is this: If it works and it distracts voters, then it’s beyond their control to resist doing what works. Somehow in their logic that makes it okay to pursue these dark ads.
I don’t know about you, but I’m already sick of them and we’ve only just begun. The mailbox and television stations are full of this junk and it needs to be addressed. The scorch and burn approach in politics will continue to be common practice in general society, if we don’t say enough is enough.
Consider a bad act or misstep by a child that suddenly is turned into a mean text or video. We call that bullying and we’ve seen far too many suicides and school shootings that stem from mean spirited attacks or retribution for bullying. Children learn from adults and they learn from airwaves full of mean spirited attacks.
Just because this type of advertising works doesn’t make it right. When you consider the purpose of these ads is to determine the most qualified candidate to represent the very best of our community, does it make sense to tear these people to shreds? It’s not dignified when considering the offices they seek and the trust they ask us to place in them.
The simple fact is, we see far too much deception and double talk, not only from the candidates but from those who seek to place them in office. It’s clear these people will stop at nothing to win the prize and yet these are the people who will control our future and that of our children. What takes place in the campaigns we now see in the halls of government.
Last week I sat and listened to a short talk by NY21 Democrat Candidate Aaron Woolf. His talk dealt with his reasons for seeking office, his challenges and what he hoped to accomplish if elected. I found the comments far more enlightening and educational than listening to the perceived flaws of his opponents.
It became clear to me during that talk that we could make a very modest contribution to the upcoming elections. I can’t stop the negative ads that will appear on signs, TV, radio, social media or in the mail, but we can establish some guidelines for our publications.
First, we will invite all the candidates running for office to consider drafting at least two editorials telling you about themselves, why they want your vote and what they hope to do if elected. These editorials will be run in place of my column, will be subject to a word limit and there will be no charge for the opportunity to tell their story. They only stipulation will be no attacks on the opposition. All the copy must focus on themselves, their qualifications and be factual.
Secondly, our publications in Northern New York and Vermont will not accept negative ads. I will ask our staff to run all political ads past our editorial board prior to running. We may also consider inviting some community members to assist us in this task to ensure non-partiality. Any ad deemed negative will be rejected.
Once the primaries are behind us we will meet with the candidates and put together a calendar for the various races. I would hope that other publications in the region will also consider accepting these editorials and perhaps in some small way we can initiate a new spirit of respect among those seeking office.
We encourage the campaigns to start focusing on putting their best foot forward as we do our best to bring you the information you really need to know about who we will be selecting to represent the interest of the people.