Through all of the cantankerous and inaccurate political ads hitting airwaves this fall, some candidates will emerge as winners in November. The question is: who loses?
Blame Obama! It’s all his fault.
Oh, wait. It’s all Mitt Romney’s fault. Maybe it’s George Bush’s fault. Or maybe Hillary Clinton’s. Or, perhaps even, it’s the Supreme Court’s fault with Citizens United.
Or maybe it’s just ours.
Through all of the negative campaign ads that have blitzed us over the past few years, we have suffered through the worst of both political spending and partisan gridlock in the halls of government. Regardless of where one wants to assign the individual blame – whether it is placed on the latest pro-Obama ad with Joe Soptic and its over-the-top anti-Bain rhetoric or on the new Obama/welfare ad courtesy of pro-Romney backers – the collective blame perhaps goes to us as a nation, as we continue to feed into the eroding political banter of the day.
As a result, even as we set up the winners and losers over the past few elections by way of accepting the cantankerous campaigning and questionable ethics we see in politics today, we are setting ourselves up for bigger losses in the days ahead as a people.
Like it or not, each instance of negative campaigning that blatantly crosses the lines of ethical responsibility, above-board political decorum, and basic truthfulness resonates as an opportunity for Americans to choose whether or not the tone of politics is acceptable collectively. Considering the level of crisis that we are facing in this nation – from economic instability to social upheaval through urban violence- it should be an easy choice to make. Any distraction that shifts the primary attention of candidates and voters away from immediately overcoming the obstacles that we face could be seen as a sign of a failure of servant, focused leadership. Instead, these ads and other forms of campaign messages from both sides of the aisle are condoned (if not flat-out encouraged) as long as they benefit one’s position of choice.
That, in turn, makes Americans take the losing position on advancing the country overall.
Say what you want about the Citizens United decision from 2010, the Romney Super PACS from Iowa in 2011, or President Obama’s reversal with public financing in 2008. The atmosphere to strive with these campaign strategies can only be sustained if the voting public supports the short-sighted, “entertain me” attitude that is necessary to make catchy, emotionally-based ads more popular (and more important to a campaign) than informative, truthful ads. All of the outrage over the latest ads this week from the two presidential candidates in 2012 may be both valid and genuine. Yet, along with their political cohorts running for down-the-ticket offices, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney will soon get another pass from the American people to continue these types of political messages. Today’s political rules affords them this sad luxury, just as long as their political bases can justify the ads, the American people will react emotionally to the ads, and the political ways of business afford them the chance to distance themselves from the ads.
We continue to lose as long as the use and promotion of these ads is seen as a necessary, big-money evil in politics, for the ads themselves are not the problem, but merely a symptom of the problem. Whether it is sharing social security numbers in political ads, character assassination of good people through reporting only shades of the truth in a news story or issue, or stringing together unrelated items to draw unnatural conclusions for the sake of campaigning, the willingness of the American people to condone and encourage the escalation of the toxic tone in politics is the drug that keeps the American politician hooked on destructive behavior.
Like an addict, this ongoing way-of-life only serves to foster a sad decline – in this case, the downward spiral of political proficiency on behalf of American citizens. Whether we want to admit it or not, our blaming Citizens United and other political realities that serve as the pushers of political decay is akin to suburban parents blaming drug dealers for their teens’ addictions while ignoring the baggies they find on a regular basis in their backpacks. We each have a choice to make, moving forward, especially in this historical election. In November, we have to choose political winners and losers with much of those choices being based on how we react to the campaigns and candidates running this fall. If we are to choose ourselves upon the victors, it is imperative that we choose to mandate a different tone within our political house before we end up with political winners in the fall that come as a result of our overall loss of political magnanimousness for years to come.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 featured on outlets including CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, Current TV “The Young Turks”, and Sirius-XM Radio. His new book, “Spoken Thoughts of an Amalgamated Advocate in Today’s America” is now available electronically on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon.com . Catch Lenny’s The McAllister Minute on The American Urban Radio Network this week and other latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.