It’s that time again—the airwaves are cluttered with negative political ads. I parodied these a few years ago by claiming that George Washington should not be elected President because:
- He wasn’t born a United States citizen (because there was no United States when he was born).
- He had served—as an officer, no less—in a British military unit (during the French and Indian War).
- He owned slaves.
- He distilled whiskey (corn could rot in the silos, while whiskey didn’t spoil).
- He named his home—Mount Vernon—after British Admiral Edward Vernon.
All true, but today, someone would spin them to discourage people from voting for Washington. With negative political ads facts are inconsequential—it’s the spin that counts.
Why do politicians rely so much on negative ads? Negative ads work.
If we think about it, negative ads reflect poorly on politicians.
But what does the success of negative ads say about us?