’Tis The Season Of Negativity
Wednesday - January 18, 2012
Brace yourself. The season of negativity has officially begun. Now that Republicans have kicked off the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire we are locked into full presidential race mode. I’m relieved. There’s only so much waiting and anticipating a person can handle, and the pre-pre-pre race speculation was getting tiresome. Now at least we are able to see something concrete.
I don’t think anyone seriously thinks the nominee will be someone other than Mitt Romney. But so far that’s been part of the problem. “Anyone but Romney” has been the catchphrase for many Republicans who aren’t satisfied with him. Trouble for them is they don’t have an obvious alternative among the second-tier candidates jockeying for a position of viability. The GOP candidates (the ones not named Romney) are flinging copious amounts of bile at each other and especially at Romney. They’re even attacking his business background, which seems odd for the pro-business party.
Romney’s strategy has been to try to ignore the nattering minions and focus on the man he considers his true target: President Obama.
I used to be impatient with the seemingly endless process we use to choose a president. Now I’m grateful for it. If we didn’t have a long and brutal vetting process we would end up making big, big mistakes. We’d end up electing the person who sounds or looks good at the moment like Donald Trump, who seems appealing until you actually start digging into his record. Or in a fit of amnesia, we’d end up with Newt Gingrich, conveniently forgetting about his less than stellar record in both the legislative and personal arenas.
Impulse buying may be all right for shoes, but it’s bad policy for selecting the leader of the free world. By the end of the campaign we may be exhausted, but we know everything we need to know to about the final two candidates and are able to mark our ballot with confidence in our choice. Any baggage and every weakness the candidates have has been exposed and dissected and analyzed until we’re all sick of it. Sick, but informed. And that can only be a good thing.
As for dealing with negativity, get ready for it. It’s not going away for one simple reason: It works. I don’t know why. People say they hate attack ads. They give lip service to civility and high-minded public discourse. But candidates who try to stay on the high road end up getting buried under an avalanche of sludge. Just ask Newt Gingrich how it worked for him. (Although Gingrich, notorious for his own mean past, was only playing nice because he didn’t have the money to go negative). His brief period in the cheery sunlight eroded quickly under Romney’s attacks.
Despite what the public says it should be apparent by now that the negative is here to stay. It gets under our skin. And, sad but true, the candidates have to prove they are not pushovers, and that means they are going to get aggressive. It’s up to us to learn to separate useful information from hyperbolic hate and unfounded accusations. Do your homework. Pay attention. Don’t be a puppet.
Gird yourself for what’s to come. It’s not going to be pretty.
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