As Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign marched through 2007 and into 2008, an e-mail traversed across the Internet bearing his name. Though the e-mail paid no praise to the candidate, rather it aimed at passing a tarnished image of Obama to the reader.
As Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign marched through 2007 and into 2008, an e-mail traversed across the Internet bearing his name. Though the e-mail paid no praise to the candidate, rather it aimed at passing a tarnished image of Obama to the reader. The e-mail is by far not an odd occurrence during an election time. Our election process is both exciting and engaging, but sadly it can also bring forth influences from the darker side of humanity, giving us negative ad campaigns and dirty campaign tactics.
Much like a magician using sleight of hand, the marketing of campaigns can distract you from seeing the significant aspects of a candidate or issues in general–whether it be smearing opponents or negative ads.
The Obama e-mail, for example, stated that Obama refuses to say the pledge of allegiance and, in fact, turns his back to the flag when it is said. Also, it claimed that Obama is truly a Muslim fanatic attempting to penetrate our country’s highest office. No mentions of Obama’s record or policies were divulged in the smear. Rather, in the end, even if you don’t fall for its inaccurate claims, you are more concentrated on the e-mail than any true aspect of Obama’s campaign.
Though smear operations are only one tactic used during this time, we also suffer through negative ads polluting our airwaves. In the 2004 presidential election, both President Bush and Sen. John Kerry were attacked via negative television ads. By the end of the campaigns, it almost seemed as if people were arguing more over whether John Kerry’s Vietnam record was accurate, or whether President Bush went AWOL over 30 years ago.
To make things even more difficult on voters, these ads do not always originate from the opposing nominee. Recently, an ad attacking Sen. John McCain was released. It played off of the rightwing boogeyman, Hillary Clinton, likening her to McCain. Though this ad wasn’t released by Mike Huckabee or any other Republican contender, it was released by Citizens United Political Victory Fund, a conservative organization aimed at progressing conservative values within government. McCain may be too moderate for their taste.
So even special interest groups come into play during election season.
I have never paid much mind to any negative ad or smear before, and I never believed that many others did either-until a co-worker of mine mentioned to me that she didn’t like Barack Obama because of a particular e-mail she received. I realized that maybe for everyone who looks beyond the political distractions, there is someone out there who doesn’t.
Elections can be like magic. They are entertaining and at times dramatic. Negative ads, smears or other tactics are like flashes and bangs, or mirrors set in place and time to force your attention away from what the magician doesn’t want you to see. Beyond the smoke and mirrors, where the political magicians don’t want you to see, are the policies, plans and factual details that matter about a candidate. This is the foundation a vote should stand on, not some trick that leaves a voter ignorant to the details that truly affect their lives.
So, during this election season, be it the Oregon primary, the presidential election or the ASPSU spring election here at Portland State, remember to beware of the trappings of political sleight of hand. Do not be distracted by minute details and exaggerations. Do the research; look at the core of a candidate and vote for the best deal, not the best image.