Category Archives: Negative Campaigning

The Wedge Issue – R.I.P?

By: Brian Bohnert

Largely buried in the furor of the historic nature of the presidential election, our old electoral friend “the wedge issue” has not disappeared completely.  Used to great effect in the 2000, and 2004 elections by Rove and the RNC to get voters to the polls (although, it should be noted that there is not much statistical evidence for the actual success of said strategy), wedge issues have worked their way onto ballots around the country for the 2008 election.  What exactly defines a wedge issue in terms of ballot politics?  From the name, we can assume that these are issues designed to create division within the electorate and to play upon fears – many times unfounded.  Almost exclusively social issues, these debates many times turn irrational and play to the lowest common denominator of humanity.  This video explains further:

However, these are not necessarily issues that should be taken lightly or brushed aside by political observers as they have the potential to mobilize large numbers of voters to volunteer in campaigns and to get to the polls on election day.  While Colorado has its fair share of wedge issues on the ballot (48, 46), lets take a look at some of the other issues that are showing up on the ballot for voters do decide on tomorrow.

Wedge issue #1) – Same sex marriage – a question pertaining to this shows up on ballots in Arizona (Prop. 102) Arkansas (Initiative 1), California (Prop. 8)  and Florida (Am. 2).  Each one of these addresses a different facet of the the same sex debate that is taking place in states across the country.  The Arizona measure is similar to one that failed in 2006 that would make it constitutionally illegal for gay couples to marry.  It is already illegal by way of statute, which is why this failed in 2006 and will most likely again fail in 2008.  The Arkansas measure makes it illegal for “cohabiting couples outside of a valid marriage” to adopt kids (because I suppose an overcrowded orphanage is much better for their overall psychological development), the Florida question bans same-sex marriage, and California’s measure seeks to reverse a  Supreme Court decision last year that struck down a ban on same-sex marriage. – something that had Ellen dancing, and Bill O pontificating.

While each of these scream “GET TO THE POLLS YOU EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS!!!” it is clear that this voting block does not hold the sway it once did a few short years ago.  While this continues to be at the top of the list for James Dobson and his loyal followers,grand_ayatollah_james_dobson  America as a whole has largely moved on from the issue to more pressing things, like real issues that actually matter.

Wedge Issue #2 – Abortion –  This issue shows up on the Colorado ballot (Am 48 – definition of personhood), the South Dakota ballot (Init. 11) and the California ballot (Prop 4 – parental notification).  The most aggressive attack on reproductive rights comes from the South Dakota measure that would ban all abortions except in the case of rape and health of the mother, put doctors in jail and is clearly desinged to overturn Roe v. Wade.  While the voters of SD have previously voted to turn down such restrictive laws, all eyes will be focused on the outcome of this election as polling predicts that it has a good chance of passing.  This of course, makes the presidential election all that more important as the next commander-in-chief will determine the make up of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future.

Wedge Issues # 3-7 – immigration, stem cell research, affirmative action, marijuana, assisted suicide –  While the bulk of the ballot debate has focused on abortion and same-sex marriage, other states will be deciding about these other popular wedge issues.  Arizona makes it illegal to hire immigrants that are undocumented, Michigan voters will decide if stem cell research is allowed and if marijuana can be legal for medicinal use, and Washington state will continue its battle over doctor assisted suicide or “right to die” debate that has been going on for the past eight years.  

While each one of these alone does not determine national policy, the test cases that each of these represent have broader implications for future laws.  While most political pundits have large Democratic wins across the nation, one can wonder if that will translate into decisive victories on these ballot initiatives as well (you can track the results here). If the original intention was to get these on the ballot so conservative voters will come to the polls, it might have backfired.  In other words, what would be more debilitating to “pro-life” advocates if Am 48 in Colorado and Initiative 11 in South Dakota lose by substantial margins?  What if Democratic voters come out in droves to vote for Barack Obama and while in the booth vote to keep gay marriage legal in California and allow gay couples to adopt in Arkansas?  Whatever the results, wedge issues will never completely disappear, but hopefully using them solely for political gain at the polls will be a thing of the past.

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Filed under Negative Campaigning

Let’s cut the bull crap and get down to business!

November 1, 2008

By: Melissa Keller

Coloradans have turned in their TV remotes for more useful forms of information since their local television has been taken over by negative political ads. For those watching local news, it’s difficult to decide on who their congressional representative shall be this year when all there is to see are scandals and lies displayed by both parties.

Marilyn Musgrave has been the current congressional representative for District 4 since 2002; so when first time runner Betsy Markey challenged her return to congress it was inevitable that a cat fight wasn’t too far from the picture.

It began when Musgrave noticed her district moving more and more left with each year of being in office, and now that almost 90% of newly registered voters are democrat she’ll do just about anything to keep her seat. Musgrave began this cat fight when she argued that Markey was unfit for office by releasing an ad about her firm wrongly receiving federal contracts while Markey worked for Ken Salazar. In the ad, it blatantly showed Betsy behind jail bars hinting to the idea that she’s a criminal heading straight for prison.

It was obvious that this ad in return upset many loyal democrats who weren’t afraid to fight back. In an interview with Markey, she explained that the GOP statements were “outright lies” and that she would get to the bottom of this. Markey eventually filed a complaint with the Larimer County District Attorney’s office in mid September for airing false statements about her. It is illegal for a politician to knowingly display false statements about their opponent in a political campaign.

In their first local debate on October 9th, Musgrave continued to bring up allegations of Markey’s misuse of power with her company; but when her statements didn’t have much evidence to back them up, she quickly changed her tactics towards Markey’s inconsistent responses about her ownership with the company versus when she ended it.

But trust me, it didn’t stop there.

Musgrave was soon the next to file a complaint against Markey for allegedly telling falsehoods in a recent local commercial. This particular ad misled voters to believe that Musgrave allowed lobbyists to “wine and dine” her and that the Republican candidate sponsored a bill that would have benefited her family by lowering taxes on capital gains from investments in coins and precious metals.

“Musgrave’s personal financial disclosure said her husband in 2007 had between $15,001 and $50,000 in gains from his precious metal investments. The bill Musgrave co-sponsored would have lowered their family tax liability between $2,000 and $6,500.”

Markey’s campaign spokesman, Ben Marter, reacted to the complaint by saying, “Why is Musgrave spending her time disputing an ad that has been documented and proven to be true?”

This wasn’t the first time Musgrave reacted strongly to Markey’s actions. Back in August, things got pretty chaotic when Musgrave responded to Markey’s rejection to a radio debate by making her intern dress as a duck in reference to Markey “ducking” out of the debate.

Although this campaign has been a tiring one with its misled statements about scandals and corrupt politics, it’s always nice to know that our local candidates would rather go out of their way to back stab each other instead of focusing on the real issues that America faces today. I don’t blame Coloradans for being sick of the current negative ads circulating through the news that it wouldn’t surprise me if many of them vowed to refrain from watching television altogether until the election is over, I know I have.

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Filed under Colorado, Democratic Party, Media, Negative Campaigning, Republican

Lakoff Part Deux

Professor Robinson brought up some <a href=”https://election2008ucdenver.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/lakoff-metaphors-and-08-campaign-oh-my/#comment-329″>great points</a> in his comments about my last post regarding <a href=”https://election2008ucdenver.wordpress.com/2008/09/16/lakoff-metaphors-and-08-campaign-oh-my/#comments”>George Lakoff</a>. I would like to address them and other issues that have crept up over the past couple weeks.

<em>”…the real debates are not about frames–they are about fundamental policies.”</em>

Professor Robinson is right, the real debate is about fundamental policies. The debate between Democrats and Republicans are fundamentally about the differences in policies. We have no need here, to rehash the differences, as long as we take as fact, that there are differences. The differing policy positions truly determine how someone is going to lead and what they are going to do while in office. This is probably the most vital functions of elections. Determining which policy position is the correct one. I would challenge the majority of people to tell us the last person to win the office president who focused their campaigns on policy positions.

Kerry and Gore focused their campaigns on policy, Bush didn’t. Clinton, Dole and Bush Sr. did not focus on policy. While Clinton did not focus on policy issues he did touch on it. Bush Sr. in 1988 did not focus on policy Dukakis did. Reagan spoke very generally about policy but was more focused on ideas and vision. As far back as most people would like to go, the winning presidential candidate’s focus was not on policy.
The American people unfortunately have a history of voting for people who are not focused on policy. The general consensus is that Bush Jr. won two terms because he was somebody people <a href=”http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTFhYjk3NDNmMGFjYTNmZWZlYmY1NzkzYmYzNzc2YTI=”>wanted to have a beer with</a>, Clinton was a charmer and had a silver tongue he was able to present a vision which people believed in and clung to:

Bush Sr., was someone that people trusted was a continuation to continue the Reagan legacy. None of these Presidents focused on policy, instead they all won election from something far more intangible, they won because they were able to “argue” that they were the best man for the job. They were able to “frame ” an argument in which the majority of the populace (excepting Bush Jr. in 2000) that they were the “correct” person to lead the country. To convince a large group of people that they are the cight person for the job, the candidates had to campaign in way to alienate the least number of voters. Often people talk about being disappointed that they had to vote for the<a href=”http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=E82DC2AEC0DDD5D47E9482627A9B522B.tomcat1?fromPage=online&amp;aid=105425#”&gt; lesser of two evils</a>. In reality, this is by design.

Lakoff argues that the Democrats have the progressive ideals that people crave. He also argues that the Democrats have forwarded policies which aggressive enough to capture most of the left but not so progressive that it alienates those people in the center. I would argue that the democrats ideas and policies have been the right policies for each particular moment in history. That however does not change the fact that over the past thirty to forty years, the democrats have been on the losing side of the vast majority of presidential elections. I believe that both Lakoff and I would argue that the lack of winning is not because the policy proposals are bad or not good enough; instead these losses are directly attributable to a lack of communicating these policies in a way which is easily conformable to <a href=”http://labs.google.com/inquotes/”>sound-bites</a&gt;.

A political sound-bite is not a way of communicating policies but instead a way of communicating ideas. The key is to frame the policy in a way that the ever present <a href=”http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fourth%20estate”>fourth estate</a>, will decide to use in their own interests. For instance, a policy proposal on taxes will in some way effect every American. Realistically, something that is going to affect all Americans is going to be fairly lengthy. Something that is short enough to fit into a 8 to 30 second sound-bite is unlikely to contain or able to communicate a policy proposal.

Politics today largely come down to these sound-bites. As a result policy can only be on the periphery of the discussion. While it is the most important part of the discussion, it is in no way influential enough. Instead it is more important to frame the policy debate in a way which will receive the most electoral votes. This is done through framing sound-bites and framing an argument which reaches beyond the base. A presidential candidate has to frame themselves not as the best person for the job; instead they must frame themselves as a better person for the job then their opponent. This, in successful presidential campaigns, is done through framing the argument to promote themselves and/or denigrating their opponent/s.

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Filed under McCain, Media, Negative Campaigning, Obama, Voter Demographics

Candidate vs. Opponent

by Nathan Pitman

Please read twice. The first time do not click on ANY links. the second time click on ALL links.

It seems incredible that in this day and age people continue to advocate for things which are going to put the rest of the country at a disadvantage.

Here we are in the 21st century, and we  have a presidential contender arguing that (1)we should not be helping where help is needed. This same candidate argues that (2)“activist judges” and (3) strong diplomatic actions and not threats are needed to quell messy situations. What is he thinking!

The economy is gone to hell and left a hand-basket of coal. (1) People in the U.S. are suffering and yet he rails against them as if they are at fault. The economic problems have hit some pocketbooks more than others yet the candidate’s opponent wants to give other people the government’s helping hand.The candidate knows that this economic crisis will determine the outcome of the election and yet his opponent attacks every plan he comes up with. It seems downright un-American and a travesty to boot. These attacks portray him as out of touch with real Americans when the opposite is true, just look at his running mate, a “from back home” type of populist if there ever was one.

The opponent said in the last debate that he would (2) not appoint activist judges, are you kidding me? Of course he didn’t come right out and say he would. He did hint that he would only appoint judges that ruled in a certain way. I would like to point out that some Supreme Court justices do not base their decisions on precedent or in a sound legal basis. The last thing this country needs is more activist judges, especially on the supreme court. The two candidates have come down on differing sides of the living constitution issue. In reality there is only one side which is correct.

The candidate understands that sometimes it is important to use (3) diplomacy and sometimes it is important to use force. The key is knowing which time to use which.  The opponent and his running mate think that they should waste little time before using force in a dangerous country to save lives. Is this the proper use of force or diplomacy?

And finally remember one of these two won’t even admit to fund raising, by a TERRORIST for his campaign!

All this shows that the candidate, is in no way the best man for the job. He is wrong on three of the most important decisions facing the country. The candidate is wrong (1) for wanting to help corporations through this troubled times and not the common person. The candidate is wrong on (2) activist judges. he advocates putting judges on the bench that will legislate from the bench by overruling past precedent specifically in the case of Roe v. Wade. Finally the candidate is wrong on the issue of (3) diplomacy. He takes no forceful stand on genocide in Darfur, arguably the worst human tragedy of the 21st century.

It is hard to see how the candidate reconciles his various stances on these issues when often he has been (3) considered a hawk on military affairs. He even advocates staying in Iraq through the foreseeable future. Yet he thinks that we should not sit down “without preconditions” to speak with our enemies. (2) The candidate refuses to take a firm stand on the type of judges. While he has claimed he will require no litmus test for Supreme Court Justices he will not nominate anyone who disagrees with his views on the Roe v. Wade. (1) The candidate wants to give even more money, cut taxes, and further deregulate large corporate interests; meanwhile he refuses to lower taxes on the middle class.

A final thought…

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Filed under Democratic Party, McCain, Negative Campaigning, Obama, Republican, Uncategorized

“That one”… (you know, the black one)

A Polemical Essay by: That Girl

I’ll say this: I don’t think John McCain is racist. But he sure knows how to hang with the worst of them.

With a Bear Market currently mauling a little china shop known as the Global Financial System and McCain’s less than spectacular performance in demonstrating the urgency of the economic meltdown (outside of suspending his campaign for a few hours while negotiating alternative debate dates -> a stunt that smelled more like a steaming pile of politics than the cool breeze of “Maverick” it was intended to ostentate), it seems the McCain campaign feels it has little choice but to pander to the lowest common denominator of their party by resorting to tar-slinging tactics (read: mud-slinging with a racist adhesive).

The past few days have seen a noticeable shift in political maneuvering from the McCain camp with concerted attempts to not only link Obama with domestic terrorists:

… but allude to foreign terrorist alliances by virtue of his middle name:

… which has been conspicuously added to both Palin’s:

… and McCain’s introductions of late:

Add to this tack a solid Southern Dixiecrat base still smarting over that whole Civil War thing:

Comparative Analysis -> These maps demonstrate correlate divisions between Red/Blue states of the 2004 Election Cycle and the Secessionist/Unionist states of the Civil War...

Comparative Analysis -> These maps demonstrate correlate divisions between Red/Blue states of the 2004 Election Cycle and the Secessionist/Unionist states of the Civil War. Coincidence?

… and it’s not exactly surprising that hatred toward a black presidential candidate would rear its head so ugly and quick in America…

**********

By now, we’re all more than likely aware of the incendiary campaign rhetoric and subsequent malicious comments produced by angry Republican mob participants over the course of the previous few days…

(Listen for “treason” @ 0:31 seconds):

(… and “kill him” @ 0:13 seconds):

… and McCain’s lukewarm attempt at backpedaling:

“[Senator Obama] is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared about as President of the United States,” he said, before adding: “If I didn’t think I would be one heck of a better president I wouldn’t be running.”

… as the McCain camp signaled its refusal to alter its strategy by actually defending these bigots:

“Barack Obama’s assault on our supporters is insulting and unsurprising.

[snip]

“It is clear that [he] just doesn’t understand regular people and the issues they care about. He dismisses hardworking middle class Americans as clinging to guns and religion, while at the same time attacking average Americans at McCain rallies who are angry at Washington, Wall Street and the status quo.” (emphasis mine)

What.

This seeming lack of concern on the part of the Republican campaign for the historically proven consequences of such rhetoric and obtuse approval is nothing short of inexcusable and frankly, boggles the mind.

These supporters aren’t “regular people”. They are the most unhinged elements of our society. They can’t be “angry at… the status quo”. They are the status quo: white, bible thumping social conservatives spoiled on eight long years of flaunting moral superiority like an American badge of entitlement, pointing to “traitors of the war” while requiring the greatest restriction of civil rights since that guy McCarthy invented his own “ism” -> all in the name of waging a righteous Crusade to “democratize” “terrorist” nations.

So, while these particular Republican supporters may also be frustrated by “business as usual” in Washington and on Wall Street, make no mistake: if they’re pissed, at the end of the day, it’s because their brass-balled, hegemonic endorsements are shriveling like so many raisins in the sun.

The problem with the Republican ticket is this: the position of the Presidentcy of the United States, at all times, (but especially times like these) requires a greater moral compass than those currently demonstrated by either the Republican presidential or vice presidential nominees in practicing their “Win at all costs” campaign philosophy. Worse, by activating, harboring, and comforting the most unacceptably radical elements of our society by political means, the Republican Party has effectively condemned all social progress made since the Civil War in advancing Equality, Opportunity and all those other novel concepts given lip service by the GOP when speaking of the Constitution.

Is John McCain racist? I don’t believe so. But he walks a perilous line:

John McCain and Sarah Palin, you are playing with fire, and you know it. You are unleashing the monster of American hatred and prejudice, to the peril of all of us. You are doing this in wartime. You are doing this as our economy collapses. You are doing this in a country with a history of assassinations.

… when [your supporters] scream out “Terrorist” or “Kill him,” history will hold you responsible for all that follows.

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Filed under Democratic Party, McCain, Media, Negative Campaigning, Obama, Palin, Republican, Uncategorized, Vice-President

The Last Month of Dirt, aka What Will Stick?

By: Jet Peterson
Now that we have reached the last month of the campaign season, the mud-slinging is increased.  The old claims and the old relations are being dug up to create a guilt by association. Barack Obama has been in associations with the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. John McCain has associations with Keating. Both are old relations with loose validity and both are being used to create an association to the candidate and the bad guy.  John McCain is being associated with financial corruption and the down fall of the financial system currently. Barack Obama is being associated with domestic terrorism and the dangers in the world. These are the last efforts to go to our deepest fears, and that the candidates are the demons that are ruining our fears.  The only thing that we can actually do is be rational and pick out what we really want out of a candidate, not what they’ve done in the past or who they have met with.  This is not a time for fear mongering but for deep discussion on who we want to lead the country for the next 4 years. The following are the videos each campaign has been slinging at each other with hopes that they will stick and scare us into voting the other way.  Its important to evaluate each of them, but not be stuck in the rhetoric 
The Obama campaign put out the following video describing the relation of John McCain with Charles Keating.
Here is CNN’s truth squad giving its fact checking on the video and the overall campaign opinion on it. It found that overall the Obama campaign was truthful in describing McCain’s involvement in the Keating scandal of the 1980’s.
It is fair to note that John McCain was involved only slightly, and was accquited of any illegal activity, and was only repramanded for his poor judgement on pushing that legislation that held back the regulations on the Savings and Loan group. 
Here is the video of the American Issues Committee defining Obama’s relationship with Ayers, and Ayers’ involvement in terrorism.
Here is CNN’s Truth squad giving its evaluation on Obama and his involvement with Ayers or the actions that Ayers took place in. They found that the claims were false.
Fox News presented another count of his involvement with Ayers in the Chicago School group.  It shows more clearly what happened with Obama and Ayers in that group, and how they are related. Here is that video on Fox with Stanley Kurtz.
Its fair to note that the relationship that Ayers and Obama has is mostly political due to the highly left politics in South Chicago.  Left politics in South Chicago is far left, and the machine is focused on Ayers and Wright. 
The last bit of bad past relationships that are being dragged up is the relationships of the Republican Vice Presidential nominee, Sarah Palin. Here is the Special Comment by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC. Keith brings up Sarah Palin’s association with the Alaskan Independence party, and a guest Minister at her Alaskan church known for leading a Witch Hunt in Kenya.
This kind of mud-slinging will only worsen politics for this last month before election day. When these sort of ideas are dug up just to deface the opponent it only hurts us as citizens that will live under this individual for four years. Making it so that we can’t trust out leaders doesn’t do anything to help us when they are elected. In crises trust is needed in our leaders not finger pointing and over developed allegations. So I am hoping that Americans will look past all of the dirt and elect the next president not on the dirt, but on actual beliefs that the person they picked is the person that is best for America.

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Filed under McCain, Media, Negative Campaigning, Obama, Palin, Vice-President

How Does Fear Drive the Voters?

Fear is a tool that has been used by politicians and organization’s to sway the American people’s votes.  This tool has been used in televised political advertisements in the past and today.  The use of fear in political ads make them very memorable, and those memories can stay in the voter’s minds to Election Day.

     There is a constant reminder in current ads on television about the threats facing our society and how candidates will or will not protect us.  These are effective tools when trying to sway votes to or away from a specific candidate. Television advertisements are especially effective because of their ability to show images that will create an emotional connection.  The primitive nature of fear means that it can be triggered most powerfully not by wordy arguments but by images that make a beeline for the brain’s emotion regions.”

     Here are a couple of examples of fear based television advertisements: 

 This first ad is a current ad that is being ran about Mark Udall that was paid for by Freedom’s Watch.

 

 

This next ad is an ad from 1964 called the “Daisy Girl Ad”

 

           

 

           Both of these ads have very strong messages of fear, and are very effective in clearly conveying those messages.  They are both very relevant to the threats facing society in the times that they were created. 

 

These advertisements prey on the worst fears of many American’s, and are intended to do so.  Fear makes people more likely to go to the polls and vote, which reflects the power of negative emotions in general.”   Both the ad against mark Udall and the “Daisy Girl Ad” discredit a specific candidate’s abilities (based on whether it was for or against the candidate) to protect the country and the American people from the threats that are facing them.  If someone is afraid that their leader will be unable to protect their family from these threats, then that will drive their vote in the voting booth on Election Day. If it is fear that brings them to the polls, then the American people are going to vote for the person that they think is going to protect them. 

           

     The use of fear as a political tool in televised advertisements is an effective tool that makes the televised ads very memorable and brings the voters to the polls to vote based on the issues as well as candidates portrayed in those ads. 

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Filed under Colorado, Media, Negative Campaigning, Uncategorized