Presidential candidates appeal to voters with their low tactics
With the likelihood that the November general election will be another close one growing, it benefits the voting public that the candidates have already started their bitter rivalry. Traditional election logic has both major parties? contenders going to the extreme on their side of the political spectrum for the primaries, only to pull as far to the center as possible before the general election. With both candidates decided upon before several primaries have taken place and still five months before the later convention, we can see where they really stand on the issues.
Historically, voting rates in the United States are poor: in years of Presidential elections, they reach about one-half. In off years, the rates are far worse. With a chance to use the many flaws of their opponents to their fullest extent, it can be commendable that the candidates are showing such an early interest in the opposition?s character. Of course, because of the seemingly strong hatred between Senator Kerry and President Bush and their circles of supporters, much of the interaction so far, and much that can be foreseen, has been and will be low blows and mudslinging.
While this is an unfortunate and inelegant way to conduct political campaigns, the U.S. is a country filled with electoral ambivalence. In this country, one so apathetic about its elections, this negative campaign strategy ? breeding a hatred between a candidate and his voters ? can be a good tactic. They can recruit new voters, especially those who will only be interested by an impassioned extreme and sensationalized view. Character attacks are going to be a major part of that, especially if some of the so-called ?morality? issues come into play with the President?s military service or Kerry?s stance against the popular constitutional marriage amendment. Slander happens; while it?s only marginally informative and marginally entertaining, it?s often a decisive factor in who takes the White House.
The defamations themselves do not need to decide the election: Realizations about one candidate?s bad side are not an automatic loss. Similar situations occurred during the initial elections of Presidents Andrew Jackson and Grover Cleveland, wherein the opposition slandered the would-be Presidents? moral character without real connection to the contemporary political issues. President Jackson was criticized for marrying a divorc?e, Rachel Jackson, who died before her husband took office, while President Cleveland was heavily criticized over an illegitimate child he may have fathered several years before. Cleveland was actually criticized further for paying child support even though it was unknown if he was really the father. Kennedy was attacked simply for being a member of the Roman Catholic Church and for how that church?s hierarchy could potentially alter his actions as President. But the personal issues between the candidates in those three elections raised voting rates above the norm for each time period.
Though the constant stream of negative advertisements, press conferences, and releases will become hackneyed and tiresome by November, an event so important to the continuing democracy of the U.S. deserves no less than the honest feelings of both campaigns, regardless of how negative. In a way, politics have become a form of entertainment; attracting new and returning voters requires flair that a simple discussion on issues cannot provide. While this may not provide the same informed populace, it still creates an avenue for reflecting the political needs of the American people.
Hopefully the fervor the two major party candidates are exhibiting now will carry through the summer to many informative and decisive debates, which will help the public decide on issues of character and, ultimately, which candidate will take their vote.