Negative political advertisements are utterly exhausting. In between songs on Pandora or during “Glee,” we are forced to consume 30 seconds of stories about how one of the candidates destroyed a person’s life, frequently litters, or maybe cheated on taxes. But mud-slinging advertisements shift voters’ attention to how inadequate one candidate is as opposed to focusing on the strengths of the other. Many advertisements shift the tone of the election away from the possible change voters want to a choice between the lesser of two evils.
So far the Boston mayoral race between City Councilor John Connolly and Mass. Rep. Marty Walsh has been tame, but this is mainly because there were 12 candidates. This is not because Massachusetts legislators are kinder people, it is nearly impossible to successfully tarnish 11 other candidates’ images in time for the primary elections. The gloves do not properly come off until two candidates come ever closer to the final hurdle.
Connolly, however, aims to run in a civil, positive race about each candidate’s plans for the future, according to BostInno.com Sunday. Connolly is reacting to a flyer produced and distributed by Working America PAC.
According to this group, Connolly is a, “privileged lawyer who was destined for a political career thanks to his parents,” BostInno reported. Connolly even blamed Walsh for producing these negative flyers, when in reality the PAC is responsible.
From a strategic standpoint, it is an interesting move for Connolly to avoid retaliating with more negative campaigning. This perpetuates a strange hypocrisy, since Connolly’s seemingly “graceful” plea to keep campaigning clean is a political jab in itself. By drawing attention to Walsh’s “playground bully” tactics, the politics is implicit but ever-present. As much as he dislikes a prospective dirty race, with the current political climate, you have to take shots at your opponent to win.
We want candidates to tout their strong suits more than their opponent’s weaknesses, but sadly, negative advertisements appeal to more voter bases. It is easier — and much more entertaining — to highlight your opponent’s shortfalls. That is just how people campaign these days. Negative comments and advertisements get the public’s attention, and sensationalism trumps sympathetic political discourse.
Ever since the primary, people have said Connolly and Walsh are too similar in their platforms. In this election, these two men feel they have to differentiate themselves in order to appeal to a wider voter base. The quickest way to do this? One candidate must edge out the other at all costs.
What candidate would say her or she is against education or racial equality? Shouldn’t we know about his or her shady deals in the past? Negative elections may be an unfortunate consequence of political campaigning, but the accusations make for great conversation around the polls. It captures voters’ imaginations, and ultimately, their votes as well.