A Way to Inject Decency and Lower Campaign Costs
Here in Rhode Island, over the last several weeks, we have been subjected to an unending slinging of negative political ads by Senator Chafee and his opponent in the Republican primary, Steve Laffey, both on TV and on the radio.
These ads are disgusting, often untruthful, irritating, and most likely, effective in driving up the negatives of each man. A side issue is the obvious decision of the Republican Party to support Senator Chafee, buffoon that he is, because of his family name and the support that he has in this most liberal state for his decidedly erratic views – one of which was to write in the name of Bush 41 during the last presidential election. Republicans would rather have a RINO, than no Republican at all, seems to be the calculation, because Laffey, although a popular and attractive conservative voice, is not popular with the union bosses who really run this state.
Pondering this, and continuing to chafe at the horrendous results of the last attempt to reform the electoral process, the despicable McCain-Finegold Act, I was reminded of a reform idea I had several years ago:
It seems to me that any commercial that is clearly political and presented on television or radio and which mentions a political opponent, should only feature the politician running the ad.
If Senator Chafee wishes to call Stephen Laffey a blackguard and a liar, he, Senator Chafee, should be the one to say it, not some unknown actor. If Mr. Laffey wishes to point out the imperfections of Senator Chafee, he, Mr. Laffey, should be the one to do it.
No more silky, vaguely familiar and professional voices placed against the background of multi-million dollar video graphics; no more slick television productions (like the original of the species – the daisy ad run against Barry Goldwater). The only image we would see and hear would be a man or a woman looking into the camera at you and telling you that his or her opponent is a dirty liar and a near-criminal.
Why will this help? First, I believe that no politician running for office has the same stomach for throwing political dirt when he is the one actually doing it rather than some unknown actor. Second, I believe that politicians will soon discover that some of the dirt thrown blows right back on the thrower. Third, I’m sure that this type of ad production will be far less costly, probably by an order of magnitude, than the costs associated with present ads – thus reducing greatly the cost of political campaigns.
Why haven’t we tried this already? Clearly there are constitutional issues with this new political broadcasting rule. There will be groups that will certainly sue that they are losing the right to discuss issues – including that of a particular race. It’s the reason I never pursued this idea before. However, since we lost basic constitutional rights with the passage and approval, so far, of McCain-Finegold, I am confident that the lawyer-politicians will find a way to incorporate this rule and not violate our Constitution. It will certainly improve all our lives.