It’s 1964 and a little girl stands in a field of daisies. She’s holding one in her hand and like all children of that era; she makes her own entertainment with the flower. She begins to pluck off a petal at a time, counting down one by one. But soon, the little girl’s out of sequence counting is replaced with the countdown of an adult, finger on the button of a nuclear warhead, ready to launch the world into certain Armageddon – an Armageddon that will occur if the American voter chooses Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson. Tight shot on the girl’s eye, cut to a shot of a mushroom cloud and the attack ad is born.
And here we are in 2011, knee deep in another federal election. While Americans and Canadians are farther apart than we were 47 years ago in many respects, politically we seem to be moving closer and closer, at least in our political parties’ love of the attack ad.
Harper and his party have rolled out the classic Iggy is a Yank spots and Ignatieff and his party have put together a polished social media-themed piece that paints Harper as a cyber-stalker for having kicked out a couple of university students from a Conservative rally. Both call each other un-Canadian for one thing or another, proof that Canadian and American politics are coming closer together in style. As soon as one calls the other a communist, socialist closet Muslim, the political union between our two nations will be complete.
But the Tories and Grits are not alone in the attack. The NDP have issued an animated commercial that portrays Jack Layton as the new sheriff in town destined to ride into dodge and clean up the corruption of the Conservatives. Even the Green Party have released a commercial attacking the attack ads, which is an attack ad in itself in that it condemns the other guy for what they are doing instead of outlining what they themselves would do.
What a sad state of affairs it is when our political parties expend so much energy trying to convince us of their suitability to lead this country through the logical fallacy that is argumentum ad hominem. That’s the fancy way of saying they attack the person rather than the argument.
Granted, politics is or at least can be a dirty business, but the three ring circus that is our current political advertising does little to help the voter decide who to vote for. It is little more than playing to the base. How about spending those 30-second spots on telling the undecided and non-voter what you will do and how rather than tell us how the other guy is going to screw up the country.
The last federal election drew the lowest turnout in Canadian electoral history. This time could be the same. With spring upon us, perhaps voters will stay in their backyards waiting for the daisies to bloom or someone to fight an honest campaign with integrity.
Given the climate, we could be waiting a long time for both.