Are campaign ads worth $2 billion?October 26, 2012
With the election less than two weeks away and many campaigns too close to call, it’s no surprise that the candidates are spending buckets of money on last-minute campaign ads. What is surprising, though, at least to me, is how much they’ve spent already. According to NPR, Democrats and Republicans are both on track to spend an estimated $1 billion apiece on campaign ads this year. No wonder there doesn’t seem to be anything else on TV these days.
Living in Northern Virginia, one of the designated “battleground states” in the Presidential election with a Senate race that’s also hotly contested, I pretty much expected to be inundated in campaign ads between now and November 6th. Still, the amount of money the two parties are throwing – an estimated $1,000 each – at the handful of voters who still claim to be undecided is nothing short of appalling. (Sorry, but I can’t believe that anyone is still on the fence at this point. President Obama and Governor Romney have clearly defined their very different philosophies and widely divergent plans for the country. It’s hard to imagine how the choice between the two could be less ambiguous.) Whatever your politics, it seems a shameful waste.
Perhaps more important, though, is the question of what the parties and voters are getting for all that money. The vast majority of campaign ads are dark and a little scary, focusing less on what the candidates have to offer than on what ugly things their opponents might do if given a chance to govern. They cast a pall over candidates without offering much reason to hope their opponents could do better. By the time the results are announced, I’m concerned that the winners will have been so severely tarnished by the negative campaigning that no one will trust, respect or be willing to work with them.
We’ve already got too much suspicion and reluctance to cooperate in Washington – we don’t need $2 billion more. The parties still have plenty of time to spend money. I sincerely hope they’ll choose to invest it in more positive promises for a better future.
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