By this stage in many elections, Americans start lamenting the relentlessness and coarseness of campaigns. Isn’t it enough already? Enough with the ads, enough with the phone calls and mailers. It’s tiresome hearing people lobbing insults at each other, and negative ads are simply a staple of campaigns. Lamentations that “this year it’s worse than ever!” are routine.
Yet doesn’t this campaign seem a little different in how it’s being conducted? It’s not that there are more attack ads than ever—I’m sure those are in line with the norm.
What seems different to me is that the President himself seems to be the primary vehicle for attacking his opponent. It’s the President himself who is using ridiculous, campaign-created terms like “Romnesia” to attack his opponent's record.
I’m sure people can come up with plenty of examples of previous Presidents criticizing their opponents from the stump. I’m not complaining about the President’s critique of Romney’s tax or economic plans, even if I think they distorted what Romney actually proposes. It’s the name calling, the pettiness of the President’s attacks that are jarring.
The President is damaging his own prospects, in my opinion, by lowering himself by personally guffawing about binders and Big Bird and “Romnesia.” Yet I fear that this is also another small blow to our already critically-wounded culture. Doesn’t anyone have any dignity left? Does our President really have to make himself into a cartoon of a brawling, crass candidate, appearing on an endless parade of juvenile late night comedy shows to shoot the bull with the other celebs?
It gets worse. This new ad from Obama’s campaign teases the audience with a comparison of a young woman’s “first time” with her first time voting. Sex in politics is nothing new, but isn’t there any part of American life that we could leave alone and not sexualize? Voting is supposed to be a quintessentially patriotic activity. Parents often bring their small children into the voting booths with them and explain the importance of the process: We are a part of a country where citizens choose our leadership; people fought and died for this right. We want people to take it seriously.
Yes, we also want young Americans to vote, but there’s something grotesque in this ad’s implication that not voting shows you are lame and a prude. That’s not the kind of message and peer-pressure that grown-ups are supposed to be advancing.
Yet the President doesn’t always come across as a grown-up, does he?