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Marshall’s Law

by Archives January 24, 2007

So it’s official. Hillary is running for President. No one expected this, of course. This is completely out of the blue.

As heavyweights like Clinton and Obama throw their hats into the ring, the election race for the 2008 presidential bid is officially underway.

Many are already anticipating the election of the first woman or the first black man to the post of “leader of the Western world”. The dust has barely settled in the U.S. from the midterm elections and the American press is now focused on the presidential race, to be held over the next 22 months.

Three things in this life are certain. Death, taxes and smear campaigns during the political season; the latter is just around the corner. If you think electoral campaigns can hit below the belt here, take a trip below the 48th parallel and experience the true meaning of mud slinging. Decency, manners and good taste take a back seat to political ambition.

According to a study by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes, 48 per cent of the American population actually believed Iraq had ties to Al-Qaeda. So this is clearly a country where the masses are, shall we say, a bit gullible (or perhaps they just watch too much Fox News). It’s not too difficult, then, to convince the population of, well, pretty much anything. Thus political ads, (especially negative ones), are taken as gospel truth by some.

Negative campaigns and insults are a staple of the American election system. But how much does it take before they backfire?

This past October, as the American midterm election campaigns were well under way, Michael J. Fox appeared in an ad urging voters to support Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill and her fight in favour of stem cell research. It didn’t take long for champion of the right, and all around jerk, Rush Limbaugh to criticize both the ad, and Fox.

Limbaugh argued that Fox’s erratic physical movements – due to his Parkinson’s disease – were an act. People were outraged at Limbaugh’s comments, many felt he had gone too far. The focus of the press didn’t revolve around McCaskill, but around Limbaugh’s tirade against Fox.

McCaskill was elected with 50 per cent of the vote over incumbent Jim Talent.

Political campaigns in the States have become a game of who can smear the opponent the most, often on superficial issues.

Politicians, especially in the U.S., try to look too clean because image is everything, and they don’t want to give ammunition to the opponent.

Shying away from anything taboo, the politician must dub himself with such a squeaky clean image, he becomes almost android-like. Yes he’s read Proust, he loves Jesus and eats apple pie every Sunday.

But even the most honest politician, if such a specimen exists, can have his image tarnished by his opponent. If she reads Proust, she’s anti-American. If she’s Catholic, the Pope controls her every move. If she’s a Democrat, she’s a liberal commie. If she’s a Republican, she tortures puppies and eats them for breakfast.

Politicians can spew any rhetoric they like, a few days later it will be mangled on a 30-second television ad that denounces him or her as the worst monster that ever walked the face of this planet.

The sad thing is, most people won’t actually research the candidates and their respective platforms. They’ll just take what the media tells them at face value.

The reason negative campaigns exist is because, like it or not, they are effective. The masses have become so disenchanted with the political sphere that superficiality reigns.

Federal elections are a looming possibility for Canadians. As we prepare ourselves for another electoral season, we must ask ourselves, shouldn’t we actually dig a little on our own to find information about a candidate, or should we be told by the media who to vote for?

Ask yourself what’s the media’s agenda before believing anything you’re told.

But then again, do you, should you, trust me?

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