Mudslinging tactics sully candidate issues
Every morning I go through the same routine: eat breakfast, watch Good Morning America, sit through negative commercials about California‚Äôs gubernatorial candidates and go to class.
Lately, I have become a victim of pre-election bickering at its worst. Republican candidates Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner have made it clear that they‚Äôre running against each other in California‚Äôs gubernatorial election, and they‚Äôre doing whatever it takes to bring each other down on the way to the finish line.
On the Democratic front, candidates Richard Aguirre and Attorney General Jerry Brown have taken the high road and refrained from as much mudslinging.
What‚Äôs lacking in these candidates‚Äô campaigns are more positive, informational advertisements that will reach a large audience. Until voters get a sense of the candidates‚Äô platforms from a passive medium, such as television, they will not actively search for more information on the Internet or in newspapers.
Whitman frequently features an advertisement on television called ‚ÄúWhy we can‚Äôt trust Steve Poizner,‚ÄĚ and as a rebuttal, Poizner has created a commercial to deflate Whitman‚Äôs platform by calling her a liberal candidate. Sticks and stones, guys.
But what really pushes my buttons about these commercials is that they don‚Äôt actually inform me about either candidate‚Äôs merits. Rather, they turn me off from wanting to vote for either of them.
Typically, my opinion wouldn‚Äôt stand out among those of the rest of the American people, and the gubernatorial candidates could do whatever the majority voter demographic wanted them to do. But recently, college students have proven to have some influence on election outcomes, such as in the 2008 presidential election in which the outpouring of student support helped to push Obama‚Äôs campaign over the top.
According to the Center for Information Research on Civic Learning Engagement, those in the 18 to 29 national age demographic made up 18 percent of voters in the last presidential election. What‚Äôs more, 66 percent of those voters supported Obama. It appears, then, that the candidates for governor would be well served by listening to student opinions and appealing to them through the emphasis on positive campaign goals, much like President Obama did with his campaign for ‚Äúchange.‚ÄĚ
Several students said they do not approve of the publicly advertised candidate brawls.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt respect it … when candidates use negative campaigning because it sort of makes me feel that they don‚Äôt have enough good things to say about themselves if that‚Äôs what they‚Äôre depending on,‚ÄĚ said Katherine Wittig, a sophomore majoring in mathematics.
Those students also said campaign smearing could affect their decision in favor of a candidate who did not partake in the activity.
‚ÄúI do think that it does negatively affect my opinion of their ideals because if you‚Äôre strong enough as a candidate on your own, then I believe you can use your own ideas and present that to the people and not have to rely on tearing down your opponent,‚ÄĚ said Debbie Ngai, a senior majoring in chemical engineering.
Political mudslinging is not a new phenomenon; it allows candidates to differentiate themselves from competitors in a race in order to garner as much support as possible.
‚ÄúI‚Äôll say everything bad about what another pitcher can do because I‚Äôm a pitcher. But that pitcher might be an outstanding athlete,‚ÄĚ said Jake Hamblin, an undecided freshman. ‚ÄúSo [the candidates are] really just attacking each other‚Äôs weaknesses, and that makes sense because they‚Äôre in competition with each other trying to win a job.‚ÄĚ
It could even have bigger strategic implications for the parties in question.
‚ÄúSince both sides of the campaign are enacting negative tactics, I think this not only makes the race more interesting but keeps the candidates on their toes, and by doing so keeps the attention on the Republican candidates,‚ÄĚ said Alexa Ekman, president of USC College Republicans.
But while this ¬†process of back and forth is commonplace in all political elections, it seems to be much more prevalent in this current gubernatorial election. ¬†More than the candidates‚Äô ability to tattletale, students are concerned with their platforms and self-described qualifications, which are incredibly important considering this will be the first gubernatorial election that many current undergraduate students will have the opportunity to participate in.
The three main issues affecting students are education, the environment and job creation, said Bobby Almeida, president of the USC College Democrats. However, these are not the issues candidates have been discussing in their advertisements thus far in the campaign.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm looking for someone who can turn California around and bring us back to good economic times and good educational times.
And although I‚Äôm not the biggest tree hugger on campus, I worry that global warming will greatly affect my life as well as my family members‚Äô lives in the future.
In addition, I‚Äôm concerned about the amount of jobs that will be available to me after my college graduation. And what about my family members who plan to attend a California state university soon? Will they pay too much money for a subpar education because of budget cuts?
In order to feel confident about voting for a specific candidate, I need one of them to address and fight for the issues that impact my family and me. Is that selfish? Yes. But now that I have potentially 18 percent of the total vote to back me up on my concerns, I should no longer seem so insignificant.
To all the candidates running in the gubernatorial election: You‚Äôre better off shifting the focus from thinking of snarky negative comments about other candidates to getting the word out about what makes you superior. If I don‚Äôt know about your commendable qualities and efforts to address my concerns, I might have to rely on the false accusations your opposing candidate has assured me makes you unqualified to be the next governor of California. And if that‚Äôs what students have to rely on, even the nastiest of mudslingers might not get very far in the race.
Danielle Nisimov is a sophomore majoring in public relations. ¬†Her column ‚ÄúOn The SCene‚ÄĚ runs Thursdays.