Who do you hate more? Changes in American Perceptions of Presidential Electability

When you go to the polls this November, what questions will you answer by placing your vote? What questions have you been asking yourself up to that day? A recent series of attack and defense ads drove home to me the point that we no longer care as a society about policy, or values, or credentials — the only thing that matters by voting day is that you as a voter have made a decision about who you hate more.

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Republicans?

With the release of the explosive “47 percent” video online on September 17, matters of job exportation and energy policy have fallen by the wayside; our concerns are now squarely focused on who we can trust not to think of us a human refuse. The central matter remains the same: who has our best interests at heart? However, the implications of that question have changed. Having a candidate who will work for us, and therefore whose policies we most closely align with our beliefs, is no longer important. Even the concept of voting for the candidate we see as the lesser of two evils is irrelevant. The driving force of the ads and the question we have to tackle this election is: who do we hate more?

A recent ad faceoff aired in swing-state Ohio is a perfect example (and a direct result) of the hate-focused nature of our voting process. In response to the infamous “47 percent” video in which Romney describes 47 percent of American voters as “entitled”, “dependent”, and who “take (no) personal responsibility and care for their lives”, the Obama campaign released a video  to highlight these worst points entitled My Job. While it’s not an attack ad in the usual ad hominem sense, it is at a minimum quite sophisticated in its approach. According to University of Virginia professor of political science, the ad is both “effective” and “outstanding,” drawing a clear distinction between Romney’s America and Obama’s (implied) America. To counter, the Romney campaign decided that the only way to convince voters that Romney isn’t a middle-class-hating, $50,000-per-plate-dining plutocrat, was to sit the candidate in front of a camera and force him to make eye contact with said voters in his video, Too Many Americans; a revolutionary new approach for the campaign.

The point of this style of advertising isn’t to provide you with radical new information, but to generate a sense of blind political rage. By now (they hope) you have forgotten which candidate you agreed with on issues like Social Security, national defense, or environmental issues. By now you are likely preoccupied with restocking your political arsenal with more damning evidence against the other guy, or relevant sound bites to prove that one guy is cuddlier and more personally appealing than the other.

You may have decided much earlier on in the election cycle who you are going to vote for (I know I did), but if not, don’t let a red herring  like this make you blind or distract you from thoughtful discernment when you go to vote. While one damning piece of videography is important, and admittedly a nice shot of schadenfreude when we could use it the most, it is still our responsibility as engaged and informed voters to consider the entire body of evidence at our disposal, and make the wisest choice from there.

 

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Image source: ohinternet.com

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