With the presidential election wrapping up in less than a week a change will certainly be a-coming. Whatever the results of Tuesday’s election may be, the lives of countless Americans will be forever changed.
The lives of people like Joe the Plumber and Bill Ayers will go back to relative obscurity, at least beyond their close circle of friends and associates. This may be a good thing or a bad thing, but I must warn you, be prepared for a resurgence in the future. This year’s election has seen unprecedented things many of which will be studied. The successes and failures of Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s campaigns will be studied closely and will help form new strategies for future elections.
Although many people express the successes of Obama’s campaign, many aspects of it have particularly irked me because of the ramifications they may in the future. Obama’s refusal to use public financing for his campaign was an unprecedented move, at least since Congress passed campaign finance laws in the 1970s. Obama is a man that previously supported campaign finance reform, alongside fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who is a staunch advocate of finance reform. Although Obama stated that he refused to publicly finance his campaign because the “system is broken” it still troubles me.
It troubles me because he knew that he was capable of raising more money than would be allowed of him under public financing regulations. This allowed Obama to spend nearly $200 million on campaign ads, almost double that of John McCain. In addition to his massive spending on advertisements, Obama paid approximately $4 million to buy 30 minutes of airspace for his “infomercial” which was viewed by 33.6 million people across 7 stations.
Obama’s infomercial may have helped many voters understand where he comes from or decide whether they like him or not. But it was a really a pathetic appeal to win over voters. It was pathetic not in the way that we normally think of the word, but in a rhetorical sort of way. The word pathetic derives from the Greek word pathos and is defined in rhetoric as an emotional appeal.
This is exactly what the infomercial sought to do. It showed four families struggling in their daily lives; something that is hard to ignore or disagree with. But therein lies the problem.
Whether you found the message of the infomercial agreeable or not, it begs a question. What if John McCain had the money to do the same thing? What if Sarah Palin’s story had been shown on 7 networks and viewed by 30 million. Could people really turn away a story that would have featured her ‘small town’ life and her family including her youngest child who has Down syndrome?
But because the McCain campaign, which mind you is limited to public financing yet is still raising mind numbing amounts, does not have nearly the amount of money that the Obama campaign does, he could not afford to do a similar action to that of Obama’s infomercial.
What worries me is not that McCain wasn’t given this chance it is what may lie ahead in the future. Perhaps in future presidential campaigns both parties will have candidates that will raise enough money to block off multiple networks at a time to convey their message to the American public. Would this be a good thing or a bad thing? What if the candidate was a Rudy Giuliani-like character making a pathetic ad regarding 9/11. This would undoubtedly infuriate many. Obama’s campaign tactics leave the possibility of this occurring very much open for the future.
Obama’s fundraising has shattered every record in American election history. His nearly $600 million campaign has made the race for the presidency even more elusive for third party candidates to remain in contention.
I hope that when this is all over, everyone will sit down and ask a few questions. I hope that we can collectively consider whether one tactic or idea was a good thing or a bad thing for the future of politics in the United States.
Do we really want to continue at the pace we are going? Do we really want to spend nearly a billion dollars for the election of the next president? Do we really want to place such weight on endorsement by people like Joe the Plumber?
These are all questions I hope we ask in the future. No matter who wins this Tuesday we must remember that the show will continue and that in order to perfect the system, we must be critical of it. We can’t be afraid to question the campaign tactics of a candidate whether we agree or disagree with them, like them or dislike them. This much is important to remember in this most important and historic election.