Attack ads hurt politics

Oct 082006
Authors: Drew William Haugen

“Vote Drew W. Haugen: His Opponent Smells Funny.”

“Angie Paccione sold her soul to the devil.”

“Marilyn Musgrave eats babies.”

This may be where campaign television ads for Colorado’s hotly contested 4th U.S. Congressional District may go as November approaches, because they won’t be getting better.

Why the negative ads? Do they lack real ideological and political issues to debate? Probably not. The truth is with a high degree of repetition these ads probably do become effective, but with some negative side effects.

Scanning the local TV stations, a new campaign ad will hit me. The most recent was a commercial in which Democratic candidate Angie Paccione speaks to a forum detailing GOP U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave’s connection to special interests in Washington.

Another ad I encountered from the Musgrave camp attacked Paccione’s debt record and student loans payments.

Sadly, our 4th U.S. Congressional district campaigns are no different than many other campaigns across the country.

According to the New York Times, of 30 new ads by Democrat and Republican campaigns for the U.S. House and Senate that went on air Tuesday, Sept. 26, a total of three of those ads were positive in nature.

Is this what our election politics have become?

In 1963 U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, father of the conservative movement, walked into the Oval Office to tell Democratic President John F. Kennedy that in 1964 he would be the Republican Party’s candidate for President.

Goldwater then suggested that the two candidates tour the nation to speak together.

Goldwater respected the American tradition of informed debate, and hoped to respectfully contrast his platform with Kennedy’s platform in public discourse. In those days, it was not unbelievable that Kennedy would have obliged his opponent (if a Goldwater vs. Kennedy election had come).

Unfortunately, those days may be gone.

According to the Washington Post, the GOP will spend most of its campaign war chest on negative ads concerning local controversies and personal issues of Democrats. It can be assumed Democrats will be attempting to slander GOP candidates in the same manner.

By repeating these negative lies enough, any public figure can be made a scumbag in the eyes of the voters by his opponent. The least they could do is tarnish their reputation and disaffect moderate voters.

And although I have no doubt as to the effectiveness of negative campaigning insofar as political strategy, I can’t help but think that the average consumer of our political system feels alienated by these attack ads.

I will change the channel when these ads come on without hesitation. On worse days, I will feel frustrated with our electoral system and apathetic towards voting.

On a large scale, these attack ads damage our political system. When a victor does emerge in November, opponents of that candidate and non-voters who witnessed all the negative campaigning (children mostly) are so convinced as to the victor’s poor qualities as a leader that the newly elected candidate has the benefit of already being vilified in the public arena before they take office.

What’s more, the viewing populace of these ads becomes convinced that all politicians must inherently be scumbags. Further, they are convinced that corruption, dishonesty and manipulation are extremely prevalent in Washington and are the driving factors of our political system, which damages our political system further.

Fourth U.S. Congressional District candidates Angie Paccione and Marilyn Musgrave would do much better for the voters and our political system if they would return to the fields of honest discourse and debate over issues to win elections rather than negative TV campaigning.

A special note: Drew W. Haugen’s opponent, Joe McOpponent, is beholden to powerful and wealthy Collegian-lobbying special interest groups. Also, he is very smelly. Vote Drew Haugen for a principled Collegian leadership change.

Drew William Haugen is a senior International Studies major. His column appears every Monday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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