Negative Campaign Ads Win Elections, but Lose Hearts

Meet my friend, Carl. A former Merchant Marine, Carl now owns and manages a kennel where I take my dog, Roger.

Carl beats me at golf, handily. And our political views diverge wildly. But last week, while discussing the foul smell of political ads in Connecticut, he said something that resonated with me:

“They’re all liars.”

That’s not a new sentiment, of course. But it struck a new chord with me, relative to the vital importance of trust to the vitality of brands—in this case, the brand of the U.S. Congress.

The hundreds of millions of dollars that candidates now spend on negative political advertising may win individual elections, but the ads are simultaneously degrading the brand of the U.S. Congress and, in turn, further eroding public trust in our legislative branch.

I don’t expect political candidates to care much. Or political parties, for that matter. But the members of the U.S. Congress should, because without public trust, even less will get done, regardless of whom we elect to office.

That’s one small point in a larger argument. The time has come to place restrictions on negative, inflammatory and purposively false or misleading political advertising.

If even Carl and I can agree on a political issue, I know it has legs.