Capitol Showdown: Should voters buy into campaign ads from either party?
Capitol Showdown is a revitalized opinion segment that pits two campus political groups against each other. Each week, The Towerlight will propose a question about the election to the Towson College Republicans and Progressive Democrats of Towson. The Towerlight does not support or alter any facts within the article, and does not edit other than for AP (newsprint) style. The Towerlight welcomes commentary and letters to the editor about their responses.
Even if the people do not want to buy into campaign ads, the people are still bound to view the ads. It is up to the voter to create and shape his or her own viewpoint on a specific issue before seeing the ad. Campaign ads should not be the voters’ primary source of information about a special topic. Campaign ads are designed by political consultants and a campaign staff that are biased toward the candidate running for office. Campaign ads are misleading in that they will only represent portions of a candidate’s viewpoint which may be a portion that does not fully explain the truth behind the candidate’s position.
Why would campaign ads exist if they are only going to mislead the people? Campaign ads exist because it is an easy way for people to see the ideas and political agendas about the people running for office. Although it is easy for someone to watch a screen or listen to a radio, it does not mean the viewers or listeners should. Voters need to evaluate policy agendas of each candidate through watching or hearing candidate’s interviews and speeches. Voters may think that reading a newspaper or even looking up Internet sites may mean they are obtaining factual information, however, the real facts are underneath layers of media-slanted bias that may obscure one’s viewpoint. The obscuring of one’s viewpoint is why it is necessary for voters to understand and really evaluate their own status on the political spectrum. It is important to vote for a candidate based on his/her individual agenda and ideas, not because he/she is from a certain party. It is for this reason that it is utterly important that voters who are subject to watching campaign ads watch with a closed mind.
The reason behind the campaign ads is to sway the voters’ opinion based off of facts that are not directly stated, but swayed to make the candidate look most favorable. Thus, it is important for every voter to do research that leans away from media bias in order to fully understand a policy issue and then see which candidate is for what policy issue. It is also important to stay away from focusing more on social issues of the candidate. Many campaign ads will glamorize the background life of a candidate. It is important to understand the character of the candidate; however, it is more important to understand the candidate’s views on policy issues in order to see his/her competency as a president.
- Rachel Eldringhoff, Towson College Republicans
The simple answer is: of course not. These ads are bought and paid for by outside groups, SuperPACs, and political parties with purposeful intent to mislead voters and muddy the waters of their opponents’ campaigns. That corruption of our democracy is why President Barack Obama and Democratic Party leaders seek to put in place meaningful reforms, such as the DISCLOSE Act, to get dirty money out of the political arena or at the very least make the organizations behind the ads more transparent.
The more complicated answer is: it depends. Just because these groups have an agenda, does not necessarily condemn the content of their ads to be false. Conservatives frequently make the argument that ads are merely another form of speech with equal power to change minds as campaign rallies or speaking events, they just reach a broader audience. Campaign ads can have a place in getting correct information out to voters. However, there is also more than enough misinformation to go around. Seeing something in a political ad is not enough for me personally to believe it. That is why I often visit independent fact-checking websites, like politifact.com. Often finding the truth behind the message of ads is easier than it may seem. Many organizations have the sources of their statistics and claims on the ads themselves. It is relatively easy to go to those sources and uncover the truth, or lack thereof, behind them.
We owe it not only to ourselves, but to society, to think critically and weigh the costs and benefits associated with each candidate we vote for. Democracy can only run properly with a well-educated electorate that takes the responsibility seriously. Campaign advertising has a role in disseminating information amongst the electorate, but it is not meant to be and ought not to be used as a one-stop-shop where every aspect of a candidacy is displayed without bias. A functioning democracy should know that the best way to evaluate individuals running for office is to look at a variety of sources from a variety of viewpoints with a variety of opinions. Becoming dogmatically attracted to slogan-based campaign advertising is a recipe for making disastrous choices. Few people can make a well-reasoned decision to vote for a candidate based on the snapshots of their candidacies seen in campaign ads. Elections are always bigger choices than what is portrayed on television.
- Matt Stanford, Progressive Democrats of Towson