Campaign 2012: Politics as usual?

February 2nd, 2012

Moving forward in the presidential race, there has been one primary question looming in my head. No, it is not who is going to be the Republican nominee, or the winner of the general election. While these are great questions, they are only what I consider to be inside the framework when I think of presidential elections.  For me, the real question is will this be a campaign of issues, or merely another match.

When it comes to election, the goal is all too clear: get to the end and come out victorious.  That’s all well and good; it should be the primary goal for these candidates.  But at the same time, I cannot remember the last time where an election had even 50 percent of its time devoted to the issues. Now it seems as though candidates are faced with an endless barrage of attacks.  Don’t get me wrong.  This may sound cynical on the surface, but I believe that negative attacks are sometimes vital. If one candidate tends to disagree with another candidate’s positions, then he/she has a right to attack. That being said, it can only go to a certain point.

In the last 50-some years, we can look at the changes in style of campaigning. The first appearance of negative ads were in 1964, when LBJ aired the infamous daisy ad against Barry Goldwater. By 1988, things had gotten much worse. Both candidates George Bush and Michael Dukakis seldom covered the issues of that year in order to make jabbing attacks at each other. While voters still went to the polls, they nevertheless expressed their discontent for the careless conduct of both candidates. In recent years, this has continued to play out. President Bush and John Kerry both chose to go after the others’ Vietnam War records. There was the attack on Obama about issues ranging from his religion to place of birth.  Meanwhile, the Democrats chose to find any picture of  John McCain with then-unpopular president Bush and claim to be his natural heir, ignoring any of his actual votes in the Senate.

I am still not sure what to expect.  Early on Mitt Romney seemed to be pursuing a course of positive focus. It is true that he attacked Obama, but this was all a matter of his policies as President.  Of course, once Newt Gingrich began to creep up on his lead, negativity seemed to be the only way to go. Fortunately, it seems as though Romney has managed to focus on Gingrich’s public career rather than his three marriages. Likewise, Gingrich has seemed to attack Romney’s record as governor instead of his Mormon faith.  It is signs such as these that give me hope.

If the candidates behave themselves and do their job, I will be happy. Voters have a job too. In today’s society, many seem upset with stories pertaining to gossip. Polls had shown that many Americans either had problems with Romney merely because of his faith and with Gingrich because of his marital history.  Personally, I do not believe that a candidate for public office should be chastised for his/her private life.  If Americans had always done this, some of our greatest leaders would have never been elected. So, at the end of the day, it is just as much the job of the American voter as it is the presidential candidates to understand the serious matters facing the nation and vote on what really counts.