Ad Hominem Ad Nauseam

There’s something uncomfortably narrow and unsatisfying about the ads for several of the California ballot propositions. The media spots don’t bother to argue their case on the issue, but instead urge “No” votes on the initiatives mainly because who’s backing them.

That’s a mistake, both philosophically and practically, I think.

Governor SchwarzeneggerLets take the pragmatic view first.  I understand that the Governor’s approval ratings are justifiably low right now.  Anything associated with Gov. Schwarzenegger is easily tarred as being the evil spawn of that education hating, promise-breaking, fireman-widow-starving, nurse-pinching -kicking doofus.

Just say Schwarzenegger is “for” something, and it must be evil. If it’s a ballot proposition, voting “No” is a quick way to vote against all of Schwarzenegger’s thoughts and policies. 

Okay. This close to the election, maybe it’s safe to argue your ballot case by arguing against the man.
But, what happens if there’s a terrorist attack in the state, an earthquake, or other event that calls for an action hero? Arnold looks great in front of cameras. The Terminator might become hugely personally popular overnight.  Again.

Then all those ads tying the propositions to the governor will have a most unintended affect.

Of course, more importantly, I really wish that people would talk about the issues involved.  It’s a piece of information to know that Gov. Schwarzenegger sponsored the initiative, but it’s not the whole story.  He sponsored the budget-saving bonds the state’s voters and I approved of last year. So, tell me what’s different and wrong about his proposals this time around.

I don’t expect real analysis of the issues in ads anymore, I guess. But, even the teachers’ union ads talking about heartless principals decimating their lamb-like staff with unjustified firings without the consent of parents is a more honest and informed argument than simply smearing the proposition as being “Governor Schwarzenegger’s doings. (Having known an elementary school principal who was always anxious to find and support good staff, I do wonder what principal — or boss in general — would go around firing employees for the hell of it. And, I also wonder if parents and the public should be involved in all school personnel decisions. But, those are different questions.)

The State proposition book will be bed-time reading in the next couple weeks.  I’ll note that the Governor is backing this or that, and I’ll check on the drug companies, trial lawyers, insurance industry, and the other usual suspects who have so thoroughly corrupted the initiative process through the use of paid signature gatherers.  I’ll probably cast my standard vote “No” on most of the state and local issues.

But, to grab my attention in your ad, talk to me about the issues, even with one-sided emphasis. Don’t tell me to vote on your side because you’re nicer people than the other guys.

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4 Responses to Ad Hominem Ad Nauseam

  1. fuzzygruf says:

    It amazes me that people cast their votes for a whole set of issues based on what one group tells them, like voting straight Democrat or what the NRA says or what the Harvey Milk Club says.

    I always look to see who is backing a bill or writing rebuttals. It makes sense that Deborah Burger, the president of the California Nurses Association is writing rebuttals against bills that impact health care or nursing, but why the fuck is she the one to also write a rebuttal to prop 76, about state spending and school funding limits? I’m voting no on prop 76, but not because some nurses association president is against it.

  2. dr_scott says:

    Agreed. I’ve heard the Bay Area is getting almost 100% pro-union, anti-Schwarzenegger ads, which are enough over the top that I tend to want to find good things about the ballot measures they’re agin’. I do know that most good government people support the redistricting measure, which is a small step toward unlocking the gridlock in the legislature.

    The rest of the state is getting more of a mix. In any case, I want to look through them myself and make up my own mind.

  3. excessor says:

    A lot of the rhetoric for this election is along the lines of the woman on The Simpsons whose only line is, apparently, “Can’t we just think of the children?” Nothing makes me want to vote the other side faster than that kind of soundbite.

    The basic idea seems to be that you can judge the merits of proposed legislation solely on who’s supporting or against it. What’s missing is a balanced view of the context, the problems that arise as they things currently are, and how the proposed legislation will address the problems.

    • ozdachs says:

      >>>What’s missing is a balanced view of the context, the problems that arise as they things currently are, and how the proposed legislation will address the problems.<<<

      Balanced is probably too high a standard for an advocacy ad, as refreshing as that would be.  I’d be less annoyed if the commercials at least spoke about the issues involved. 

      Even if the ad gave biased descriptions of the initiative, we’d have some idea about the topic.  As you said, it’s not very enlightening to be told to just think of the children and vote no/yes.  I think about the children all right.  And, I get very unhappy at seeing people claim that THEY are the only ones caring about the children.Wrapping yourself up in the flag never makes me comfortable.

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