Letter: Gut Check on Political Ads
As we enter the election season, we are starting to be bombarded with political ads, particularly negative ones. With the recent tax cuts, the wealthiest 10 percent are going to have lots of money to spend on ads. While the Republicans don’t have a lock on this spending as the wealthiest 10 percent are about evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, the wealthiest 50 families are overwhelmingly Republican. The Koch brothers (the second-wealthiest family behind the Walton family) alone are believed to be beneficiaries of a $1 billion a year tax benefit, and they have shown a strong willingness to spend money to influence elections.
So why are we seeing so many negative ads? Because, unfortunately, they have been shown to work. The human psyche is designed to give more weight to negative/fear-based input. How many of you first go look at the negative reviews online when trying to buy something and make purchase decisions based upon that? I know I do, but I’m trying to overcome that.
Probably one of the most egregious examples of negative advertising/rumor mongering was the 2000 John McCain Republican campaign in South Carolina where he was falsely accused of having a black child out of wedlock. It was in fact a child that his wife, Cindy McCain, brought back from Bangladesh to have medical work done and they then subsequently adopted. This good deed essentially cost McCain the 2000 Republican presidential nomination.
So do yourself (and democracy) a favor and gut check that initial reaction to a negative ad and check the facts behind the ad, particularly who’s financing it.