A lot of candidates say they don’t like negative ads. Most of them end up using them at some point or another anyway. Like anything else, they are willing to sacrifice their principles if they think it’s required to get them elected. That’s what makes Bernie Sanders so special. He says he detests negative ads, and so…
Bernie Sanders has never run a negative ad.
What is so wrong with negative ads? Don’t they work? Well, I suppose it depends on your goal. They sometimes do help change poll results and may even help sway an election. If you give a rat’s ass about democracy… well they might not work so well for that.
When we encounter negative information about a candidate we support our options boil down to these:
- Ignore or disbelieve the information, and continue to support our candidate
- Accept the information and start supporting the opposing candidate
- Accept the information, and withhold our support for either candidate
Option 2 is very unlikely for most people. Even if one does switch allegiances, what happens when they inevitably encounter negative information about their newly favored candidate? They will have the same 3 options. This is why, in my estimation, negative ads lead people to throw their hands up and say, “They’re all corrupt!” and sleep in on election day.
In other words, negative campaigning leads to people giving up on the democratic process.
This isn’t to say we can’t talk about the other candidates at all. I think it’s fair to point out, for example, that Hillary’s campaign has taken a lot of money from huge banks and other corporate donors. I think it’s fair to question whether or not she can really stand up to big money interest when they are financing her campaign. But I think we must be careful not to make the leap from questioning to accusation without good reason.
I admire Bernie Sanders for not taking part in this scourge on democracy. I encourage my fellow Sanders supporters to follow his lead and avoid the temptation to trash Hillary Clinton, or even the Republican nominees. I say we stick to the issues, and stick to the facts, no matter how obnoxious we find the opposition.