What if Subway, instead of advertising their healthy menu, value pricing and new sandwiches, started attacking Hardee’s Thickburger for its high calories? Or what if Ford, instead of promoting their design, wide selection of vehicles and rebates, attacked GM for their recalls and ignition problems?
That would be marketing suicide, wouldn’t it?
Then why do political candidates and the PAC’s that support them insist on attacking the opponent as a campaign strategy? The standard answer from political consultants is, “because it works.”
But does it? Will the loser in the Capito/Tennant battle be able to claim it worked? Will it have worked for the losing candidate in the nasty Grimes/McConnell race? What will the political consultant for the loser in the Rahall/Jenkins race have to say after election day?
People want to know why a candidate should be elected, not why the opponent shouldn’t be. By attacking each other, candidates give voters reasons to like neither, so many end up not voting at all.
Here are a few suggestions on what candidates can do, or not do, to separate themselves from the others:
- Tell us what you propose as solutions to problems facing the majority of your constituents. Notice I say “propose.” We’re tired of hearing you claim what you’ll single-handedly do, because you can’t accomplish anything in office by yourself.
- Don’t tell us how awful you think your opponent is. Quit twisting, distorting or exaggerating what they’ve done, what they’ve not done and what you think they think.
- Don’t portray the opponent in your ads with the most unflattering picture you can find, then make it worse with slow motion and a grainy filter.
If we want to see something scary on the screen, we’ll go to a horror flick.
- Tell us how you plan to reach across the political aisle and introduce cooperation, compromise and civility to people who’ve obviously forgotten what those words mean. Start with a commitment to those attributes yourself.
- Do something to convince us that America and the people you are sworn to represent will come first. Not your political party, not the lobbyists, not the folks who donate the most money and certainly not you, yourself. The struggling public is tired of watching you live an entitled life in office and then retire wealthier than when you took the oath.
- Don’t keep teaching our children and grandchildren by your actions that bullying, hatefulness, lying and blind loyalty to a political party are acceptable. They are not and we shouldn’t have to explain to our youth the difference between our real world and your fantasy world.
I don’t expect the political environment to change anytime soon, because candidates continue to seek counsel from political consultants instead of marketing professionals. Until that day comes, I will continue to use my mute button every time a political ad comes on TV, or my OFF button when I hear one on radio. From what I hear, a lot of other people are doing the same, so the ”reach” numbers being given to candidates should not be taken as gospel.
As disgusted as I am, I will still vote, based on what I can determine about real positions on important issues. Unfortunately, many people will stay home on election day, because candidates on both sides have given them plenty of reasons to do so.