PHILADELPHIA — Election Day 2010 in Philadelphia may very well go down as one of the most hotly-contested, intense and frantic elections in US history. I know it will in my case and my phone just might melt. I do not usually receive many phone calls, but of late my phone has rung off the hook with campaign calls, pleas for donations, pleas for volunteering of my time and to vote for this or that candidate. While I might consider myself a bit more politically active than most and I can put up with most of the minor political annoyances, it is getting so bad that even I am getting annoyed.
In a recent conversation with the driver of the company that transports my husband and me to medical appointments, naturally-as a writer -I asked him his feelings about thus year’s elections. His answer was a curt and to the point, statement. He said, “I’m not listening anymore. Every candidate has something to say, but none of it addresses my concerns as a working man.” The sad part is that this is how most of us Philadelphians feel and with the elections looming, the candidates are resorting to negative campaigning, attack ads and lawsuits in trying to win the war.
How Many Ads?
To illustrate, the Wesleyan Media Project conducted an analysis recently and determined that over $19 million was spent on political advertising in the local Philadelphia market from September 1 2010 to October 20 2010. Watching television just this morning, I counted 16 political ads during one 30-minute show that aired on the Philadelphia-based NBC station. The scary part is that the Wesleyan study showed that the Republican Senatorial candidate for Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, spent a whopping $770,000 in advertising, in Philadelphia.
In a recent article, I spoke of the potential importance of Philadelphia voters in the Pennsylvania elections. I did not think, however, that the candidates from other states would be joining the “bums rush” on the Philadelphian voters as well-what is the point? So far, there have been ads from three different states pounding the Philadelphia television market. The voters here are starting to hesitate when answering the phone or fetching the mail knowing that there will be more ads, many more.
The real problem is not the volume of campaigning, but the character of the campaign itself. It is becoming vicious. In Bucks County, the Board of Elections is now hearing allegations of absentee-voter fraud made by the Republicans against the Democrats. Tempers are flying with allegations and character assassination all over the country and I have begin to worry that campaigners will be knocking on my door demanding that I vote for whoever.
The issues are being lost with all the attack ads. Not many of the candidates are even attempting to run on a platform of what they will do to solve our problems. They are instead running on what the other guy did, or that they are not a witch. This is disenfranchising the voters and many are simply too bombarded to remember what the issues were to begin with.
What is the Point?
I have seen many elections and have watched them slowly descend to this level over the years the same as other voters have. It is not that attack ads are a new thing; it is more the speed and intensity in with which they are appearing. It feels more and more as if we are not voting for our government in a democratic process, but that we are rather being sold a member of Congress as a manufacturer would sell a product. With all the crises that are threatening global stability and our financial futures, there is a crazed, disturbed feeling that no matter how the Philadelphian elections turn out, the problems will not be improved and we will have wasted all of this energy. What is even worse is that some of the money the candidates such as Christine O’Donnell are spending on ads could be better spent elsewhere. Why spend the money if the ads do not even pertain to Philadelphian voters; what gives?
Philip Rucker, “Pa. Voters under Assault: Ads from Three States and Stacks of Mail Every Day,” Post Politics