By Ellis Goodman
I don’t know about you, but I’m dreading the next 12 months. Yes, we are exactly one year away from the next Presidential election. So, following the pattern of our modern political campaigns, we are going to be bombarded by a billion dollars or more of negative advertising – most of it on TV– and most of it, if not exactly lies, certainly intentional misrepresentations. For me this is pure torture.
I was most concerned to read in the New York Times over the weekend, that the resources of the Republican Party are now vastly outspent by the outside groups so called Super Pacs, who will control the advertising message of the Party, even though none of the decision makers in these organizations hold office or any job within the Party itself. The groups include the Karl Rove founded American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, the American Action Network, and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers. These groups have at their disposal right now at least $450 million. They are all Conservative or Tea Party support groups. There seems to be no room for moderate Republicans in today’s world. This money will be used primarily to get their negative advertising message across in most states in the Union, but particularly the swing states where they believe they can dislodge the current Democratic Congressman or Senator, or turn a blue state red in the next election. This deluge of money is a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision last year, which opened the floodgates to special interest monies flowing into the political campaigns without transparency or accountability.
As of now we don’t know where the Democratic response will be, but undoubtedly many Democratic support organizations will be similarly launching their own negative campaigns outside of the Democratic National Committee actions. But somehow the Democrats never seem to be as focused or as vicious as the Republicans in these campaigns.
What does this mean for our democracy and for the American people? We are told that negative advertising works and presumably that is correct, because it has become the most prevalent part of our political campaigns. The sophistication of these groups cannot be underestimated. They have learned over the years that, if you shout loud enough and keep focused on a theme and pound the airwaves and television broadcasts with this theme, eventually the public will believe that they are listening to facts and not fiction. Who can blame them? We all believed in weapons of mass destruction, we all believed in the possibility of mushroom clouds, we all believed that the next terrorist attack was going to come any minute when we had yellow, red, or whatever public emergency codes.
We know that targeted advertising works. We know that it is possible to target one group of people and press the right button to encourage them – even if they don’t agree on other subjects – to vote for a candidate just on that one particular issue.
Of course it would be naive not to recognize that the unnamed and undisclosed sources of these funds will – if successful – expect their “pound of flesh.” That means a cascade of favorable legislation for giant corporations and billionaire-controlled industries, probably to the detriment of the majority of Americans
Karl Rove, probably the most brilliant campaign manager in recent history, did an incredible job through two George W. Bush campaigns. It is probable that, without Karl Rove, George W. Bush would never have been our President. Rove has often been compared to the brilliant Joseph Goebbels, who manipulated German public opinion in the late 30s by control of the radio airwaves, bombarding them with Hitler’s speeches and Nazi propaganda. His conservative American Crossroads organization will be the most influential of the Republican Super Pacs over the next twelve months.
Although it will be a horrific year as we undergo the torture of this campaign, it will in some ways be interesting to see whether the public have had enough. With good reason, they’re clearly disillusioned with all our elected representatives in Washington. And that statement is true for both left-wing liberals and right-wing conservatives. Tea Party rallies and Occupy Wall Street groups, represent many of the same grievances. They want their Washington representatives to tackle the country’s many problems and not just score points off each other. There is a large proportion of the population that recognizes that this President and possibly future Presidents will be unable to execute any agenda if the deadlock and partisan politics continues in Washington. The U.S. is suffering from a period of stagnation during this crippling recession partly because of this deadlock.
I only hope and pray that the American people, as they suffer the agony of the election process over the next twelve months, will demand change in Washington’s behavior and real representation where the country is able to move forward despite political differences, in the interest of the future of our children and grandchildren.
Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com