Selling the Presidency

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Yesterday, The NY Times had an article discussing the size of the ad budgets of both campaigns. Regardless of the statistics provided in that article, it crystalized for me something I had been feeling for a long while, but couldn’t articulate, even to myself.

The purpose of ads is to sell something to us. It is not meant to educate us, even though marketers would love to spin it that way.

Unfortunately, the Presidency shouldn’t be sold, it should be earned. While I can rationalize the need for smaller elections to use ads, when many of us haven’t even heard a candidate’s name before, let alone their position on an issue, that simply isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) the case for the Presidential candidates.

These days, they get nearly unlimited air time, ink in major newspapers, too many blog posts, etc. Then, even if you missed any of that, it’s all available to watch again, 24/7, on YouTube, etc. Therefore, it’s not fair to say that they need a targeted way to get their message out.

Like it or not, the spin-meisters are getting paid to influence us, in tried and true ways, affecting even those of us who believe we are immune to advertising. Obama is Miller-Lite and McCain is Bud-Light (yes, they spell lite differently, because someone studied the effect on our psychies!). This is just very sad to me.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a positive or negative ad, it’s just wrong. Madison Avenue puts out negative ads as well:

This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

Translation:

This is your wallet. This is your wallet after my opponent becomes President. Any questions?

Here’s what I would like to see, as completely ridiculous as the idea is.

For the Presidency only (if it works, we can consider extending it to other high-profile races), permit zero ads, from anyone! That means no 527 ads, no party ads, no campaign ads, none, period. No issue ads either.

Second, no candidate should be permitted to point out the negatives of the other. We have plenty of places to read that kind of reporting, even if we don’t want it. Candidates should be forced to talk only about what they will do as President. Don’t draw the contrast, leave that one task to my personal brain.

If a candidate says anything about his opponent (positive or negative) at a rally, it should simply never be run on TV (network or cable). Tell me what you will do for me, not what the other guy won’t do for me!

Obviously, this will never happen. At least now you know how I would like it to be…