All is Fair in Love and Politics

Democrats and Republicans have cried foul over negative attacks made against them, saying they should not be allowed and that the attacker should be ashamed of themselves. I say to hell with that, it’s part of the ultimate game-plan for a candidate running.

An attack launched at a critical moment could edge a the candidate past their opponent at precisely the right moment and ensure a victory. Attack ads have been around for decades, but do they really do any harm to their targets. Some say yes and some say no. Donald Trump launched an attack against Ted Cruz saying that his father was involved in the plot to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. That attack had little effect on Cruz’s campaign.

Some research suggests negative campaigning is the norm in all political venues, mitigated only by the dynamics of a particular contest. Some strategists say that an effect of negative campaigning is that while it motivates the base of support it can alienate centrist and undecided voters from the political process, reducing voter turnout and radicalizing politics.

In a study done by Gina Garramone about how negative advertising affects the political process, it was found that a consequence of negative campaigning is greater image discrimination of the candidates and greater attitude polarization. While positive ads also contributed to the image discrimination and attitude polarization, Garramone found that negative campaigning played a more influential role in the discrimination and polarization than positive campaigning.

in the 2008 US Senate race in North Carolina, Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole attempted an attack ad on Democratic challenger Kay Hagan, who had taken a small lead in polls, by tying her to atheists. Dole’s campaign released an ad questioning Hagan’s religion and it included a voice saying “There is no God!” over a picture of Kay Hagan’s face. The voice was not Hagan’s but it is believed the ad implied that it was.

Initially, it was thought the ad would work as religion has historically been a very important issue to voters in the American south, but the ad produced a backlash across the state and Hagan responded forcefully with an ad saying that she was a Sunday school teacher and was a religious person. Hagan also claimed Dole was trying to change the subject from the economy (the ad appeared around the same time as the 2008 financial crisis). Hagan’s lead in polls doubled and she won the race by a nine-point margin.

The bottom line, Politics is a dirty game, the ultimate prize is higher office. If you are not willing to get dirty, you should consider another line of work. Roger Stone is an example of a political operative who can shake up the political system and ensure victories for various people or issues.

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