After the American Century
Last week in Virginia, just one week, more than 4,000 negative campaign ads were on radio and television. They came from both the Obama and Romney campaigns. Each clearly has decided that they have the best chance to win if they can undermine their opponent. But the result of such campaigning is that voters lose respect for the political process and do not want to see or hear the advertisements. More and more people become convinced that the candidates are exaggerating or lying. Indeed, some people get disgusted and will not vote at all. The candidates know they are driving some voters away, but nevertheless continue their negative advertising.
There are basically two kinds of negative advertising. The first stays focused on an opponent's political activities, particularly how he or she voted, their relationship to special interests, and any evidence of flip-flopping on important issues. The second makes personal attacks (veiled or otherwise), suggesting that the candidate is not a good person. So far, we have mostly the former, but there are hints of the less acceptable advertisements, and these are more likely was we come closer election day.
One would think that after four years a president's image would not easily be challenged, though that is what Romney is trying to do. Surely most voters have formed an opinion about a sitting president, but apparently Romney thinks he can convince people that Obama is not a good American - this apparently being the line of attack in some of the ads. Such attacks seem just plain stupid to me. These two men differ in their views, but I do not think either one of them is insufficiently American.
It is time to have a real debate about issues - accompanied by detailed policy proposals. Where do these candidates stand on the following issues?
- Is it possible to institute some form of gun control, to protect the public from massacres like the recent one in Colorado?
- Should the US continue to use killer drone planes in Pakistan and other countries? If so, what are the limits for using such weapons?
- Do women have the right to an abortion? (An issue especially important given that several Supreme Court positions are likely to open up due to retirement during the next four years.)
- Are banks now sufficiently regulated, or does the new scandal (centered in Britain) suggest tighter controls are needed to prevent them from defrauding the public?
- Should the Bush II tax reductions for wealthy people end or not?
- How should the United States finance university education? Its price tag has increased more rapidly than wages during the last thirty years, and the nation risks becoming uncompetitive with countries where tuition is low or even non-existent.,
- What is the best foreign policy for the future, as the US economy declines in relative size compared to the world economy as a whole?
- To what extent, and how, is the US going to pay off its enormous national debt?
- As evidence accumulates that global warming (and Greenland's melting) are very real, what is the US going to do to reduce its contribution CO2 emissions?
This is only a partial list of important issues. Negative advertising focusing on individuals will not address them. The voters deserve better.