At this time in an election year, condemnations of “negative” political ads crescendo to fortissimo. But hey: Are folks really so attached to watching the standard menu of TV advertisements for GEICO, Viagra, and Chia Pets?
I doubt it. I think they worry about what such nasty attacks say about our political process. Granted, many 30-second political spots stretch the truth like a pretzel, though not any more than the candidates regularly do in person.
Still, political debate today is no nastier than it was when Washington and Adams and Jefferson roamed the earth.
And TV wasn’t even very big back then.
“An onslaught of negative political advertisements in congressional races,” the New York Times relates, “has left many incumbents, including some Republicans long opposed to restrictions on campaign spending, concluding that legislative measures may be in order to curtail the power of the outside groups behind most of the attacks.”
Incumbents are smart . . . and informed about campaigns. I’ll bet they know that in the 54 races lost by incumbents in 2010, Super PACs spent on average over $900,000. In races incumbents won, about $75,000.
“Incumbents have a lot more money than challengers do,” Professor Bradley Smith, former Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, points out, “and Super PACs help to level that playing field and make challengers competitive.”
Incumbents think that elections are a time for them to speak. It’s all about them. Plus, no one — great, lousy or mediocre — likes to be attacked.
But elections in a free society are a time for everyone to speak.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.