October 15, 2014

Wondering, on Wednesday (v7)

A few months ago I wondered about how out of touch politicians at all levels seem to be with their constituents on most issues. I had the opportunity a week later to do another post, the one where I was happy to report that a significant majority of us believe we'd be better off if we threw Congress out -- even our own elected representatives.

Six months later, almost to the day, where are we?  Well, pretty much right where we left off. Except that we're now only three weeks away from the mid-term elections, and we're being bombarded by political ads, most of them paid for by outside money, which regular readers know drives me to distraction. (Click here for a link to my campaign finance reform posts and here for my election reform posts.)

The ads for the race in my Congressional District, NY-24, are horrendous. Negative. Obnoxious. Untruthful. Fear-mongering. Name-calling. Pandering. Least-common-denominator stuff. Our race is so important that Crying John Boehner himself had to come to town to raise money for the Republican, and Joe Biden is literally coming to town to raise money for the incumbent Democrat. Those things alone will likely inspire more negative ads.

And yet, according to a poll  of regular television viewers conducted by Rasmussen Reports earlier this month, people don't like negative ads and don't believe they're necessary for a candidate to win.

Seriously. Check out these numbers:
  • 63% think most political ads on television are attack ads
  • 57% say negative ads make them less likely to vote for the candidate who produced the ad
  • 56% think a candidate can win without negative ads
  • 55% think the government should be able to review political advertising content first
  • 35% think that political ads should be banned from television.
Obviously, there are some party-line differences in those numbers, but if you take party out of the picture, the picture is clear: we don't like what the candidates are doing to get elected. And they don't care.

Even before they get sworn in, they're already out of touch. 

So why do candidates continue to go negative?

I appreciate it's hard to run on your record when you're an incumbent in the 113th Congress, as of September tied with the 112th edition for the least productive Congress we've had. Not a lot you can say that's positive about how you've spent the past two years spinning your wheels, even if you've been spinning in a bipartisan manner, as some claim.  But if you're an incumbent and you want to stay in office, you should be able to outline a vision for your next term, why you want to continue serving, and how you'll act if you're re-elected.  

Similarly, if you're a newcomer to politics, or if you're 'upgrading' to a higher level of elected office, running on your record might be hard too.  But again, you should be able to articulate your vision, describe your principles and what matters to you. If you're all the things you think you are, and you have all the ideas you think we need, you should have no problem explaining your positions, rather than slamming the other guy.   

Why? Because I'm wondering, on Wednesday, if the candidates realize that these ads will always represent them, even long after they're done representing us.