October 13, 2010


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor


Are you getting tired of turning on your television set and seeing a campaign ad from candidate A bashing candidate B? Are you tired of picking up your mail and getting another slick mailed campaign piece depicting all of the things that a candidate for office has done which should make voters never want to vote for that candidate?
Welcome to the world of negative campaigning. And if you haven’t liked what you’ve seen on TV or received in the mail so far this election season you had better brace yourself. With just three weeks left before the Nov. 2 General Election, the negative campaign ads are going to get more frequent and more intense.
Granted, pointing out the shortcomings of a political opponent is always a good campaign strategy. But do voters want a steady diet of negative ads or do they want a candidate to tell them where they stand on the issues and what the voters can expect from them if they are elected to office?
The answer is obvious. Voters, across the nation, overwhelmingly dislike negative advertising and are troubled by its widespread use. And instead of negative ads, they would like to see the candidates address what they are going to do and what they stand for if they are elected.
According to a survey commissioned by the Project on Campaign Conduct, voters are not overjoyed with today’s political candidates and their campaign tactics. In fact, a sampling of those surveyed indicted that:
• 59 percent believe that all or most candidates deliberately twist the truth.
• 39 percent believe that all or most candidates deliberately lie to voters.
• 43 percent believe that most or all candidates deliberately make unfair attacks on their opponents. Another 45 percent believe that some candidates do.
• 67 percent say they can trust the government in Washington only some of the time or never.
• 87 percent are concerned about the level of personal attacks in today’s political campaigns.
And the negative campaign ads are probably looked upon even less favorably in a state like North Dakota where we very seldom hear candidates for local or even state office twisting facts and pulling quotes out of text in campaigns. But when two candidates for federal office square off, the white gloves come off and there seems to be no limit as to how far one candidate will go to make the other look bad.
Unfortunately, negative campaign ads aren’t going to go away.
It no longer seems to be that the campaign ads that we see on TV are used to promote the qualities, knowledge and experience of a candidate which would make him/her the best candidate for the voters to elect. But rather the ads are directed at instilling enough fear or mistrust of the candidate’s opponent that the voters will vote for the person who can hurt them the least.
Voters deserve honesty and character from the people that they elect to represent them. When the vast majority of what the voters see and hear from the candidates during the campaign is half-truths and lies about their opponents, should the voters expect anything less from these candidates if they are elected into office.