If they do, they’re more likely to skip commercials, which means they’re less likely to see any of the presidential ads that will be clogging the airwaves from now until November.
But my fear is that people will watch those ads. And I fear that they won’t actually research the veracity of the claims made on those ads and will make an uninformed decision on election day.
Because, let’s face it — television does influence the way America votes.
In 1988, Michael Dukakis had a huge lead over George H. W. Bush in June. Then came that ad with him sitting in a tank. The ad, showing Dukakis looking silly in a big helmet (and a tie!), furthered the impression that Democrats were weak on defense. Other TV ads — one with a furloughed inmate and another about a polluted harbor — further ruined Dukakis’s chances, even though there was much more to those stories. (Dukakis’s failure to respond to those attacks didn’t help.)
Remember those Swift Boat ads against John Kerry? Kerry was a war hero, and yet those ads managed to make him look like a coward — despite running against a guy who avoided the draft.
And, of course, the “T” word always works. When George H.W. Bush went back on his “No new taxes” pledge, that line provided great fodder for Bill Clinton’s campaign — and in the process had a chilling effect on any future politician who dared to be flexible and change a stance.
Of course, ads aren’t the only way TV influences voters. Many who listened to the first Kennedy-Nixon debate on the radio felt Nixon won. But those who saw it on television believed Kennedy won because 1.) He was more handsome than Nixon and 2.) Nixon sweat too much.
You probably don’t want people choosing candidates based on whether they sweat during a debate. But, hey, at least people watched a debate.
Today I’m worried that people will base their votes simply on commercials paid for by billionaires (The Koch brothers, who pledged to spend $400 million to defeat Obama) or short and sweet catch phrases (James Carville’s line “It’s the economy, stupid” did major damage to George W.H. Bush’s re-election bid.)
Certainly, Mitt Romney’s tenture at Bain Capital is easy to distort in a 30-second ad. And while current tax rates are quite low, all you have to do is suggest Obama is obsessed with taxes to get people riled up.
But truth is irrelevant in political ads. Getting a phrase or image to stick means everything.
That’s why I’m voting for DVR this election. Because DVR will spare voters from the garbage and encourage them to base decisions on facts, not carefully orchestrated, dishonest snippets.
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