The Common Good

We're Sick of the Attack Ads

Sojomail - October 28, 2010


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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

We're Sick of the Attack Ads

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Dear Candidate, Party Organization, PAC, Super-PAC or any committee that happens to be contributing to the non-stop political ads that have flooded my TV:

Give us all a break! We're sick of the attacks, the innuendos, the outright lies, and the prophecies of doom if the other candidate gets elected; and the same commercials over and over again. There is one week left before the election. Instead of filling the airwaves with noise, how about you give us all a chance to clear our heads and do some thinking? I'm pretty sure you have said everything you have to say and made all the arguments you can make. The only things the negative ads and robocalls are accomplishing at this point are annoying lots of people and wasting lots of money.

Every time I see a negative ad these days, I think one thing: What a waste! In such tough economic times, I cringe at all the money being spent on throwing mud at the other side. In fact, that gives me an idea: All of you who keep making arguments about why we should never trust the other side with our tax dollars -- how about you show us that you can be responsible with your own money now?

What if you took down all your negative ads, stopped the angry and poisonous mailings, cut it out with all of the robocalls, and took all the money you saved and gave it to the poor?

There are a lot of families hurting out there right now. If you want us to believe that you'll help them after you get elected, how about you start now? Take New Hampshire, for example. The Union Leader reported that $21 million will be spent on the race for a Senate seat during the primaries and general election -- and that's a conservative estimate. To put it in perspective, that adds up to $15.85 per resident or $33.23 for every expected voter. This is also enough money to send every unemployed New Hampshire resident a check for $555 or feed 1,000 homeless families of four for 14 years and 8 months.

Across the nation, House and Senate candidates' spending will exceed $2 billion. With a week left to go, spending by outside independent groups is already at $258 million. How many foreclosures could that money prevent? How many hungry children could be fed? How many unemployed people could be assisted?

We all know the reasons why no campaign manager or consultant would ever let this happen. The huge amounts of money being spent on campaigns and, specifically, on the most noxious ads is already disturbing; but when compared to what else that money could be spent on, it becomes downright offensive.

Ads at their best can be used to clarify and inform voters of policies and priorities at stake in an election. At their worst, they are used only to confuse, distort, and manipulate. Unfortunately, it just might be time to say to all those aspiring to national leadership, if you don't have anything nice (or at least not mean) to say, maybe you shouldn't say anything at all.

Oh, I know they're not going to take their ads down, so take my request/plea/demand to do so as a protest vote against the whole system that now distorts our very democracy. Many of us are just sick of it.

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