According to the numbers I'm looking at, this thing could come down to just a handful of votes. In the last article I read, about 8,400 absentee ballots have been received. Maffei is currently down by about 680. To win, he'd need to open up an 8 percent gap among those ballots. Most of them are from Onondaga County, which on Tuesday he won by--you guessed it--8 percent.
That leaves me with two thoughts. The first: Will Maffei's vote against the additional Afghanistan funding last summer hurt him among the overseas military voters, who will be part of this final count? He gave an impassioned defense of this vote in one of the debates I saw, and concluded by saying that if that vote cost him the election, then so be it.
The second is the hobby-horse I like to ride regarding attack ads. No one's hands are clean in this election, but some of Maffei's ads were pretty sharp and character-driven--especially the one regarding Buerkle's delinquent property taxes. Based on what I read in The Post-Standard on this, Buerkle may have actually been trying to help out her tenants. Obviously there were national-level factors involved in this race, but did those ads turn off enough people to make a difference? Could they have backfired?
Note: This blog draws in part on my experiences and observations interviewing political figures, writers, and analysts for "The Campbell Conversations" on WRVO. To hear past interviews I refer to in these posts, please go to the show's website. The views expressed here are solely my own, and do not represent Syracuse University, the Campbell Institute, or the WRVO Stations.
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Friday, November 5, 2010
Check My Math -- Buerkle versus Maffei
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My impression is that the attack ads are generated by the National Committees and the "I approve this ad" is a "tack on" which in today's computer-age could be placed there by the National Com.
Drama, The candidates would vehemently deny this. They are not supposed to coordinate these efforts.
But in a similar vein, what I found distressing and different this year is that the candidates themselves had no problem in being nasty and personal in their attacks, and they went there early. In years past, you're quite right--the worst stuff has come from the parties. But this year it seemed like there wasn't that much difference between the two sources.
The problem with negative ads is that they work. I don't think we can expect individual candidates or their organizations to stop using them. This is exactly a place where we desperately need strong government intervention to protect any remaining semblance of a democratic process in the digital age. Who is more discouraged from participation these days, whether it is voting or seeking public office: reasonable citizens capable of addressing complex modern problems? or people driven by the prospect of power to push a preconceived agenda? That's not a left or right problem. Reminds me of a W.I. Thomas' quote:
"If [men] define situations as real, they are real in their consequences."
Ok, point taken, but I don't think trying to regulate the content of ads for truth and decency will work--or even should work. If we're going to go a government-based route, then perhaps what we're left with is to contemplate the British model, which is to ban all paid political TV and radio ads outright. The argument there is that the value to the democratic process itself outweighs the speech concerns in that particular instance (similar to our "fire in a crowded theater" test). And of course, they do not have a Supreme Court with the authority to overturn acts of Parliament on constitutional grounds.
Exactly! I'm not arguing for a rating system on decorum. Is there some way to preserve the "free speech" element by banning ads from coming to us unwanted, say restrict the speech to forums where you voluntarily ask to see them? (Obviously there is a lot to be said in this vein, but not by me.) But I register the problem. In a different age, pre-cable and pre-internet, I lived in Australia and there was a blackout on all tv ads for three days before the election. It was interesting and I remember us waiting for the peace. Of course, that's not enough today, I don't think, and the politics of then and there were very different. Still, there was a realization that the advertisements were a problem for society. I wonder more about Britain, Australia today, and other countries.
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