During the waning days of the campaigns for governor and U.S. Senator, I received an inordinate amount of correspondence lamenting the outrageous, demagogic, disingenuous, negative ads, especially on television. The frustration can best be summed up by a thoughtful writer’s comments, “Steve, it is sad with all the issues we need to face in Alabama (health, education, infrastructure) we continue to dumb down our elections. I found the Kay Ivey ads revolting and racist.”
The writer went on to say that he was a Democrat, and he knew a Democrat could not win in Alabama and the best they could get is 40%. My response was, “Negative and dumbed down, overt racist ads work. If they didn’t, then these media gurus would not use them.” Over 65% of the ads used were negative, over the top ads that only had a scintilla of truth. Why, again? Because they work. I also told this reader that this vicious, atrocious simpleton advertising is not limited to just Alabama.
We are a right wing conservative Republican state, and only conservative Republicans vote in a Republican Primary. This reader stated he is a Democrat. He probably did not plan to vote in the Republican Primary. Therefore, the ads were not designed to appease or attract him or his vote.
Ads are designed to pander to right wing, conservative Alabamians. Therefore, it is pretty clear that ads are going to depict their candidate as being against abortion, illegal immigrants and for having, owning, and shooting guns. The media gurus are obviously going to say that someone’s Republican opponent is for killing babies, letting Mexicans cross the border illegally and being against the Second Amendment.
Furthermore, allow me to take up for the Republican electorate of Alabama, who have consumed these ads. We are a red right wing Republican state. If you think these media gurus or hired guns, as I like to call them, are not moving to a left wing liberal state and doing the same thing to the left wing voters of California and New York, you are mistaken.
If you were to see the television ads in a California Democratic primary, these hired guns would be revealing to the left wing, liberal base ads that show their candidates advocating that the governor should perform free abortions on demand during the third trimester on the Capitol steps, and every county in California should be made to open and fund transgender schools. The hired guns would further have a picture of their gubernatorial candidate holding a welcome sign and personally embracing all illegal immigrants crossing the border and gifting them a social security card, welfare check and voucher to any school in the Golden State, and of course giving them a democratic voting application regardless of whether they could read, write or speak English. Their gubernatorial candidate would follow up with a statement saying, “We as democrats do not care what this costs us because we do not believe in a balanced budget.” Then they would have their gubernatorial candidate erecting signs all over the state instructing all gun owners to turn over their guns, immediately, because the Second Amendment does not apply in California.
In short, we are a very diverse and very partisan nation. There is a lot of difference in political and social philosophy between California and Alabama. California is definitely a liberal Democratic state and Alabama is definitely a conservative Republican state.
The same hired gun political ad gurus travel from Alabama to California. They do not dwell on philosophy. They are hired to win elections. They design their ads to appeal to the base of the conservative Republican Party in Alabama and they design ads to pander to the left wing, liberal Democratic base in California.
As far as our Alabama GOP primary, in defense of Kay Ivey, she was going to win reelection regardless of what her eight opponents did or how much they spent. She would have gotten 60% if there had not been $16 million of mostly untruthful negative ads thrown at her. She did not go negative against the eight novices that attacked her. Folks, Kay Ivey, ain’t anymore for abortions on demand than Mother Teresa.
In closing, negative ads work. It they didn’t work they would not use them. You always have and probably always will see negative ads. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist in Huntsville to understand that if you are trying to win a Republican Primary in Alabama, you pander to the conservative base voter. So, you ask, “Do campaign ads pander?” The answer is “Duh, yes.”
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at: www.steveflowers.us.