If you are like me, there was a time when you were amped over the election. Watching historically unprecedented candidates traveling across the country, explaining their visions for the future and battling it out for the most powerful job in the world was enthralling. And if you are like me, you’ve watched this campaign go from exciting … to annoying … to aggravating.
If you are like me, you have come to hate this election.
The media’s coverage of the campaign hinges, without interruption, on the petty and the redundant. It’s hard to believe anybody still cares about the ramblings from Barack Obama’s crazy former pastor or the crazy pastor campaigning for John McCain or the increasingly crazy ex-president campaigning for Hillary Clinton. But nothing demonstrates quite how trivial, hyperbolic and stupid this election has become better than the recent campaign advertisements running across the states. Let’s take a look:
Perhaps the most famous commercial of the election cycle is Clinton’s silly “red phone ad,” in which unsettling stock footage of sleeping kids and a ringing red phone is somehow supposed to scare voters into choosing Clinton, because she will make better choices at 3 a.m. Obama replied with his own version of the ad, in which he would make better 3 a.m. decisions because he didn’t support the war. It was an effective response, sure, but it would be nice if the media would ask the important questions. Like, when has a president ever had to make a crucial 3 a.m. decision? Or why does the president have a red phone?
Clinton’s latest commercial, released Tuesday in North Carolina, is an attack ad packaged as a policy proposal. Clinton proposes to address the housing crisis by a freeze on foreclosures and suggests a quick fix for record-high gas prices by suspending the gas tax for the summer. The commercial criticizes Obama for “saying no” to both ideas. But there’s a reason why Obama – who has his own proposals to address both crises – is against Clinton’s plans: Because they are bad ideas! Several independent experts have concluded a freeze on foreclosures will only aggravate the troubles in the housing market. And a suspension of the gas tax – which for the record, was first proposed by McCain – will accomplish little in the short run and nothing in the long run. A three-month reversal of the gas tax isn’t an answer to the energy crisis or the looming recession. It’s a pander, not a solution. Considering Clinton has run as the pragmatist, prepared to remedy any problem with a toolbox of creative solutions, these proposals and her commercial reek of late-in-the-game desperation.
Another advertisement run in North Carolina has been drawing controversy and criticism over the last several days. The commercial, being run by the North Carolina Republican Party, ostensibly attacks North Carolina’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates Beth Perdue and Richard Moore, who have both endorsed Obama. The ad opens with the now infamous clip of Obama’s fiery former reverend Jeremiah Wright shouting, “God damn America,” and concluding with a criticism of the two Democratic candidates for their close ties to Obama.
The commercial has drawn the “ire” of GOP candidate McCain, who has openly criticized the ad and asked the North Carolina Republican Party to refrain from airing it. But that’s probably little more than a political ploy; as the de facto leader of his party, McCain almost certainly commands the power to get the commercial pulled. Rather, by publicly speaking out against it, he keeps the ad in the news cycle and preemptively deflects any criticism his campaign might have received from the commercial.
It’s a similar strategy to the one employed by President Bush in the 2004 election. When the Swift Boat groups smeared John Kerry as a traitorous war criminal, the Bush campaign waited weeks before they finally came out and condemned the advertisement. These are the tactics that explain why voters are cynical about the political process. These are why citizens get turned off from elections. Although truth be told, if you aren’t turned off by this point, you probably haven’t been paying attention.