Wednesday, November 08, 2006

So Glad That It's All Over

"All slander all the time eventually collapses of its own foul weight." Would that this were true...

From today's WSJ.

What makes our politics so sensationally awful is not just the amount of money spent denigrating the category and the profession, but the equally stunning amount of energy that is expended by party apparatchiks to amplify the negative in news-media coverage of politics. And the news media are only to happy to comply. The truth is they can't get enough of it.

The net effect of this constant and unrelenting assault on politicians and the political process is voter resignation and ultimately a kind of doomed acceptance. It must be true. They must all be hypocrites, fools, thieves and scoundrels. They're talking about themselves, after all. It's $1 billion of self-portraiture.

A general rule of politics is: It's not the action, it's the reaction. The reaction to the onslaught is aversion; qualified, capable people avoid politics and the political process at all costs, thus diminishing the talent pool. The New York Republican Party was unable to recruit a qualified candidate for state comptroller, even though the race was there for the taking, because they literally couldn't find a qualified candidate to run. Nor could the Republican Party find a qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. No sensible person would do it. Part of corporate advertising contains a subtextual message; come work for us, we're in an exciting business. We're growing and it will only get better. The subtextual message of political advertising is: You'd be crazy to get involved. It's bad and it's only going to get worse.

One would think that the major parties would grasp the concept that they are destroying the very profession they purport to love, and act accordingly. In the midst of all these negative messages, one would expect to find a broad, thematic campaign that aspired to something bigger than "he voted for toxic waste dumps and against your unborn child." When the Labour Party in Britain finally got tired of losing elections to Maggie Thatcher's Tories, they hired the best advertising minds in that nation to relaunch the Labour Party brand. The results were impressive. Tony Blair rose to power and rules to this day.

But in America, the major parties don't ever think in broad, national terms. They're all tactics and no strategy. They don't advertise themselves at all. Instead, they spend the hundreds of millions of dollars they raise microtargeting supposedly single-issue voters and bombarding them with negative messages about the opposite party's alleged disdain for those concerns. Put more simply, they send you junk mail you don't open, and leave robo-calls on your answering machine that you immediately erase.

Ultimately, the reaction to this ceaseless negative barrage, if it continues unchecked, will be the rejection of both major political parties. As more and more people are repulsed by the political process, their number will at some point reach a critical mass. Americans share two overriding beliefs: Tomorrow will be a better day and the idea of America is fundamentally important. That critical mass will eventually embrace a party of hope and mission. A new political party that speaks to those beliefs will emerge. The alternative, after all, is a new record every two years -- $2 billion of negative advertising, then $4 billion, then $8 billion. All slander all the time eventually collapses of its own foul weight.


Blogger Jeff said...

It was always thus, and I'm fine with it. Let the faint of heart bow out--it was never their game to begin with.

11:42 AM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

I'm feeling particularly retarded today, so please forgive me if this sounds sophomoric--Isn't this analogous to how Marx saw capitalism's ultimate demise? How has capitalism done since Marx? Negative campaigning will also win the day.

I heard two great criticisms of this negative campaigning. One considered how many people would give up beer if Anheiser-Busch went along telling us how horrible Miller was, and vice versa. The other, from 890 am, considered whether Evanston Northwestern Hospital should begin advertising how medieval the medicine is at Resurrection.

The present data indicate that negative campaigning works, but I wonder if positive campaigning could work. When Paul Wellstone (hardly someone I like ideologically) first ran for Senate, one of his ads was a fabulously up-beat, hyper affair in which he ran from place to place, introducing himself and his qualifications.

Blagojevich flirted with such sensible advertising once or twice, touting job growth and an improved budget (I don't know if either of these is actually true). I would like to have heard Topinka tell us why guns are good (I think that they are). Rich Whitney did pretty well giving us actual ideas, and I wish the media would have given him more time to espouse them. That's really the problem here, not the negative ads themselves, but the media's laziness and unwillingness to actually consider the various political ideas and give them the necessary time. Sure not everyone will stay awake through such a venture, but a great many educated, thoughtful people will. Perhaps that's not the demographic that the advertisers are targeting......

12:36 PM  
Blogger Germanicu$ said...

Lately, I have begun to think that guns are good. Or more accurately, I have forgotten the counter arguments to the compelling libertarian underpinnings of the gun nuts' arguments. I think it was the referendum on my ballot regarding an assault weapons ban, which I voted against. I hadn't even read up on it and I could tell it was some non-binding piece of claptrap. Lost that one, 85%-15% .

At least Rich Whitney polled double digits. That might be the best showing a big-ticket 3rd party candidate I've voted for has ever done.

8:48 PM  
Blogger sexyretard said...

I also voted for Whitney, shocking my friends in DeKalb.

It's kind of hard to come out for guns without sounding like some incestuous country bumpkin (but some day I'll get that far). It's not a position I would ever have taken save my time in West Virginia when I saw gun rights in action. Contrary to popular belief, there were no shootouts and people weren't pulling weapons out on the guy who just cut them off. Really, the drivers were far more genteel, but perhaps just because there were less of them, or even because they knew not to piss off other drivers who probably had guns....

At any rate, it always pisses me off when people living in North Evanston tell people living in Rogers Park that they ought not be able to own a handgun (which neither can, incidentally), and as far as assault weapons go, obviously criminals are going to make up 99% of assault weapons possessions in Cook County in the first place. Being as though they don't follow the laws, AND that they are the ones we're worried about, such a ban just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to this insomniac retard.

9:05 PM  

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