Sunday, February 10, 2008

Advertising and elections

From The Guardian UK comes this quote in an article on the nominating election results yesterday:
The Clinton team, before the polls closed, tried to play down the contests, attributing their expected defeats in part to his outspending them on advertising: $300,000 more in Louisiana on television ads, $190,000 more in Nebraska and $175,000 more in Washington state.
Advertising?!!? That did it?!!? First of all, I saw a lot of Hillary ads in the little television viewing that I did. They were good ads, too. Secondly, do you really want to insult your base party activists by suggesting that they were so easily swayed by advertising? What about the issues? What about the candidates? Both of them held big rallies here as well as did the television interviews. Don't you think that people were swayed by that as well as discussing the issues and watching the preceding primaries and caucuses? Clinton's team, if indeed they said this, does no favors to her by insulting the intelligence of the Democratic electorate.

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Scott said...

Speaking to this and the last post, advertising does make a difference. And a much bigger difference in a non-caucus atmosphere. Advertisements hit the majority of the population who will make their decision based on the sound bytes. People going to a caucus are more accurately informed because for the most part they compromise the segment of the population willing to do more than switch channels when making decisions.

I think there is a reason the republican party and their funders clamor for the democrats to switch to primaries. It is easier to simply throw money at an election for their real constituents, whom aren't supposed to be the same as for the dems. I'm not suggesting we change the general election. The process for choosing candidates should be determined by the party, and at least in theory the dems should favor people over big money. I think that in voting the manner in which candidates are chosen is important, so difference may well be healthy.

I believe the party should pay for the primary, just like they have to pay for caucuses. Also, I feel that that voting is a privilege that we have trivialized. Absentee ballots should be the exception and not the rule. I understand absentee ballots are the most prone to fraud, so it is no surprise the gop goes gaga over the idea of spreading this insidious laziness.

B.D. said...

Well, we'll disagree here a bit. I'll take your point about advertisements well. As I've often noted, people do not vote for candidates based on a platform of policy proposals, but rather on a gut feeling as to who they think will make a better leader. In that sense, advertisements can affect the vote. On the other paw, most people do not pay attention to the election until September or October. Even if the primary were the norm, most people would not participate because they don't want to be bothered with the background noise...however more people would participate simply because we would have access and the time.

I don't think the Republicans are the only ones clamoring for the switch to primaries. In many states where Democrats control power (New York, Massachusetts, etc) primaries are the norm. And if you think that Democrats are any less interested in the lazy, most cost effective manner of throwing elections, then we'll definitely disagree on that position. My problem with caucuses is two fold. First, access in the way of time to get to them. I'm sure we'd both agree, though, that with either system we should have national time off scheduled for anyone who wants to attend these functions (it seems to me that businesses can give their employees a day or half day off during the weekend to vote or a day off during the week...I'm not concerned about getting results same day...that's a media problem; not a democratic problem). Secondly, I don't like declaring for either party and don't want to be bothered by party activists.

Now, to this point of the parties controlling their election format. I'm of 2 minds here. Yes, difference can be healthy and I'm not bothered by that. It's federalism in action. And, if the parties are only paying lip service to the primary here, then the state should drop it and save us money (although, I think the state has another motive - an extra election day that can be staged so that local elections for levies and such can be piggy backed onto it).

On the other paw, the parties are trying to have it both way. Just like major league sports they have a legal oligopoly. By passing onerous laws in various states they effectively eliminate competition. Anything that can be done to eliminate that wall is healthy for democracy as it widens the market of ideas from which the populace can choose. One might argue that the laws that prevent this need to be addressed state by state, but that's the same tactic of division in order to maintain control that alcohol and tobacco companies have applied for years in order to limit competition and maintain their oligopolies. Not necessarily a good strategy, particularly for democracy. Also, it seems to me that the parties are saying "it's our private club", but at the same time not recognizing the public's right to have the elections their way. To that end, I think a pox on both parties is in order.

Absentee ballots? Love them. Oh, and this state was controlled by the Democrats when they were instigated. Indeed, Democrats promoted the idea in Washington. Absentee ballots provide me with more time to sit down at home and research the minor candidates and ballot initiatives that I haven't been motivated or able to pay attention to before the election. Sure, I pay attention to my representatives, but judges are harder for me to research. I still voted for those positions when I went to the polls. I was just not as well informed. Plus, I sit and discuss those positions with my spouse when I do vote and am sometimes swayed by her take on them. Where you see laziness I see the opportunity for more informed choices for all as well as a decrease in hardships for many including working class folks, the elderly, and the infirmed who find it near impossible to make it to the polls. Voting is not a privilege, it is a right guaranteed by our Constitution. We should try all that we can to make it easier; including holidays. And, frankly, when it comes to secret ballots I do not see how absentee ballots can do anything but improve that system.

Fraud? Easily done in many formats. I'm not convinced it's any less difficult in absentee ballots than on ballots at polling places either by hand or Diebold machines. There's always fraud in elections. Could we do a better job minimizing it? Perhaps, but I'm sure that holds true for all forms.