While it’s hard to understand the undecideds, it is not quite so difficult to relate to the I just can’t take it anymores. We can all empathize when we accidentally flip to a channel where Ed Gillespie and Terry McAuliffe are in each other’s faces, spinning, yelling, lying and crying.
If only, we may have thought to ourselves at those moments, the power was back in the hands of the people. Our fellow citizens would demand that we scrub the dirt out of politics and return the discourse to matters of policy. If only we could stop the ridiculous talking heads who will cheat, lie and steal if that’s what it takes to avoid an admission that the other side may have made a decent point.
But here’s the rub.
We are even sicker than they are. After all, this is the political season during which citizen’s groups are wielding the most power they have in years. And things are uglier than ever.
By far the most negative (and often pathetically sick) television ads have come from a variety of 527 organizations that have sucked tens of millions of dollars through a campaign finance loophole. The Swift Boaters ripped Kerry’s honor and military experience. From hoods over the Statue of Liberty’s head to using W’s jokes at press events against him, MoveOn has often made Michael Moore seem evenhanded.
If there is any lesson of this campaign season, it’s that we regular citizens can lash out at candidates in a manner that is significantly more hardcore than the old professionals ever imagined.
Did Eminem really think he could shock anyone with his new video in the age of the 527?
Come on. No one can go gansta like we the people. And we turned middle America into a true battleground. Oshkosh went mosh.
So who benefits and who loses? Certainly those unfortunate enough to live near a television screen in a swing state are the ones who have taken the biggest hit. I don’t think this trend hurt the incumbent too much. But I do think it might have hurt Kerry. During the first few months of the general election, John Kerry had some difficulty getting his message out, introducing himself the American people and rising above the din. With all the noise being created by the various 527s, it was at times impossible to figure out exactly who was in charge of the Democratic swift boat.
This are more organizations and voices involved this campaign than at any period in recent memory. And that’s probably a good thing. But there is a lesson here as well. Many thought that the distribution of marketing and messaging power would lead to a revolution. Instead, we ended up with a really nasty civil war.