Politicians in Your Living Room

By Liam Sherman, Staff Writer

Election ads have become an expected part of the election process. They are hard to miss, filling TV timeslots everywhere. They also serve a valuable purpose in a candidate’s campaign. Election ads serve as a platform for candidates to express an opinion, or viewpoint, to people who may not watch the news or be able to see a candidate speak in person.

Many modern election ads don’t specifically target issues that undecided voters care about, but sell the idea of a candidate or an idea of their opponent. These aggressive and one sided ads surprised some voters, but not everyone.

“I didn’t think that this [election] was really out of the ordinary,” civics teacher Cristofer Wiley said. “While our two candidates were perhaps uncommon, shall we say unique, I didn’t think that the approach of name calling or the dark and dismal music or anything like that, at this point it’s about what’s expected, par for the course.”

There have been attack ads leading all the way back to the presidential election in 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Jefferson even went to the extent of hiring a man named James Callender, a newspaper editor, to write smear articles about Adams for him. The articles he wrote contained claims too racist and insulting for this publication.

Attack ads in this election though may not be aimed at independent voters in hopes of changing their opinions, but rather at the party’s base in hopes of bolstering voter turnout.

“I think it’s pretty clear the ads were aimed toward the base of either party or rather the base of either candidate. None of them were aimed at swaying opinion or informing counterpoint,” Wiley said.

Many election ads are paid for not by the candidate but by Super PACs, which can raise unlimited funds but cannot directly communicate with the candidates. In this election cycle 637 million dollars were spent by conservative Super PACs, and 414.6 million by liberal Super PACs.

This flood of the ads to rally the base can be a key component in winning an election.

“I think it’s worth noting what issues motivated the base,” Wiley said “As far as the bases go the issues he [Donald Trump] spoke to were very visceral in the minds of many of the voters in the republican base.”

Many people think ads like this helped former Republican president George W. Bush beat Democratic candidate John Kerry in Ohio in 2004.

These kinds of visceral ads from both sides from the isle with little room for political discourse though can make voters nervous.

“Its also hard to take ads as they are because they aren’t always true,” Sophomore James Gaskins said.

Facts can be used to misrepresent issues if framed in a certain way in an ad, and mass media can allow everyone to see them.

Election ads can be a powerful tool to persuade voters, and to clinch an election. Good or bad, they have become a multimillion dollar part of our election process.