Yes we only have to grit our teeth and bear one more evening of this biennial horror show… Just one last painfully-drawn out election season evening where all the networks do their breathless, time-honored live TV grind of reporting early precinct numbers and staging shots of incumbents doing their “I’m-just-casting-my-vote-like-an-ordinary-citizen-except-that-I-enjoy-exemptions-from-the-health-care-system-I-mandated” photo ops. By the time the TV stations start cutting live to concession speeches from the losing candidates, I’m ready to accept a benevolent dictatorship if it would spare us this expensive, mud-slinging debasement of democracy.
“He lied about his military service!” “She sent jobs overseas and voted to raise your taxes!” “He is a lifelong Washington insider!” “He voted Wall Street Fat Cats the biggest bailout in history!!”
Seriously, does anyone besides political writers really use the term “Fat Cats”?
Of course this months-long TV and radio crapfest does provide a very real stimulus package for the advertising industry. The Campaign Media Analysis Group estimates that political ad spending will reach $3 billion this year, a ground-breaking number for a mid-term election. In fact, that’s a full ten percent higher than the amount spent in 2008, which featured both congressional and presidential races. Between last January’s Supreme Court strike down of corporate and union spending restrictions and self-financed campaigns by millionaires like eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the spend has never been higher. Seriously Meg? Spending $142 million on the race for California Governor? Doesn’t that much money get you a “Buy Now” option?
But the one very bad thing about those particularly nasty ads is that a full 31% of voters say negative campaigns make them less interested in voting, according to an October Zogby International survey. The memorably-named John Zogby himself says “Sometimes, discouraging people from voting can be part of the strategy if a campaign believes increased turnout will hurt their chances of winning.”
In which case, good citizens stay home and the political advertising dirtbags win. That’s unacceptable. So if you can, vote. Personally, I plan to vote for that guy with the refreshing jingle that doesn’t once mention his opponent. No, I don’t know that candidate’s voting record on the hill–just call me a sucker for a decent ad…
By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79