A famous hasidic tale teaches: A man once went around spreading lies about the rabbi. Eventually he began to feel remorse for the wrong he had done. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything to make amends. The rabbi said, “Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds.” The man followed the request gladly. When he told the rabbi that he had done the task, the rabbi said, “Now, go try and gather the feathers.” The man said, “But Rabbi I cannot gather the feathers they are all scattered to the wind.” The Rabbi replied, “Exactly! You cannot take back the damage your words have done; the same way you cannot then recollect the feathers.”
According to a Rasmussen poll released this week, voter confidence in our federal leaders is at an all-time low. The survey finds that only 17 percent of likely voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed. The government has the consent of the governed - a foundational principle contained in the Declaration of Independence which has fallen to its lowest level.
Part of the reason for the low approval of the federal government is negative advertising. Studies have shown that voters hate negative ads but they are still used because, well, they work. But research has also shown that there is a boomerang effect, meaning negative political ads end up tarnishing the image of the candidate which the ad is supporting and the candidate’s desired office.
Sadly the news coming out of the beltway that Democratic Party operatives are already planning commercials designed to make personal attacks on candidates of the other party.
Politico.com is reporting:
“Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early-stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee… so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.
…The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”
“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.”
Romney should not feel “picked on” because U.S. News and World Report writes that the Democrats are beginning a campaign trying to brand the Republican Party as tools of the Tea Party who they call extremists.
“Attempting to steal some thunder from their adversaries, Democratic leaders are trying to link the Republican presidential candidates with extremism in advance of the GOP debate and straw poll in Ames, Iowa this week.
To that end, the Democratic National Committee has announced a new campaign to define the 2012 Republican candidates as too closely tied to the conservative Tea Party.
Negative political advertising is as old as presidential politics itself. The first competitive presidential campaign was John Adam’ campaign against Thomas Jefferson in 1800. During the campaign, Adams slammed Jefferson as an atheist and a “mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” Adams was condemned as a monarchist who sought to become a king, a fool and a hypocrite.
Now that is nasty. Just because negative advertising has been around for 211 years doesn’t make it right or desirable. Neither is nasty politics the exclusive purview of the Democratic Party, in the past both parties have engaged in the politics of personal destruction.
This election however needs to be different. The United States is arguably facing its biggest economic crisis in its history. Even during the Great Depression, full faith in the United States credit was never questioned. Voters are demanding a full and rational discussion of the important issues facing the country. Yet 15 months before the election and possibly a year before the GOP will pick a candidate, the Democratic Party has started early, already ignoring the issues and waging the politics of personal destruction. We need to fight this nonsense wherever it comes from. This election is just too important to be like the man in the hasidic tale, hopelessly chasing feathers blowing in the wind.
Jeff Dunetz is the Editor/Publisher of the political blog “The Lid.” Jeff lives on Long Island.