I’m already tired of it, and we still have months to go. Most of all, “I Approve This Message” is getting really stale and irritating. When did this statement become such a thing? Why do all the candidates
Photo source: cagle.com/jason-stanford/ say this?
Believe it or not, this is a legal mandate! Of course it is! You knew that. I mean … after all … we’re talking about government, aren’t we?!
The SBYA (Stand By Your Ad) Provision is part of the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” adopted in 2002 which amended the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to require candidates for federal political office, as well as interest groups and political parties supporting or opposing a candidate, to include in radio and television advertising the statement that the candidate has approved the statement.
The provision was intended to minimize the “Attack Ads” which began to proliferate in the 1960s, criticizing an opponent's political platform and has since become a slandering contest. It was an attempt to force candidates to associate themselves with the attacks in such ads (rather than do it anonymously) and to discourage defamation of character as a campaign strategy.
Representative David Price of North Carolina, proposer of the amendment, stated:
"The American people are sick of the relentlessly negative tone of campaigns, particularly in presidential races. ‘Stand By Your Ad’ isn't just about restoring civility to campaigns. It's also about restoring people's faith in our political process."
In my opinion, that would be a good thing. Unfortunately, it hasn’t seemed to achieve its purpose, but at least the public knows who is saying what.
THE “BAD TIMING AWARD” GOES TO….
As Jon Levine says in mic.com/articles/, “Despite noble intentions, the major flaw of the Stand By Your Ad provision wasn't in the text but its timing.” Adoption preceded subsequent actions which rendered it somewhat ineffective.
The Legislation addresses only radio and television ads without anticipating the popularity of the internet and social media. Also, the Supreme Court allowed unlimited donations to super PACs, not named in the SBYA statute. “Now, rather than any single person, massive political ad campaigns are often bankrolled by groups with names like ‘Security is Strength’” and not subject to the disclosure.
Violation of the “Stand By Your Ad” provision can result in penalties levied by the Federal Election Commission and the loss of lowest rates for campaign ads. Attempts have been made to broaden the text to include internet ads, but the original bipartisan support has fallen victim to the ever-expanding schism between political parties and platforms.
I predict a long and full life for the words “I’m ---, and I approve this message.”
MUDSLINGING: AN AMERICAL POLITICAL TRADITION
I also predict the American Political System will not betray the long tradition of negative campaign rhetoric. Image credit: Cartoonist Hachfeld
Image Source: New Britain Herald (2006)
By the election of 1800, between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, influential outsiders and journalists took up the torch. There is a long backstory to the election, which I won’t bother you with other than to give some of the quotes.
Others in the Adams camp called Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”
Not to be left out, an influential journalist and supporter of Jefferson, named Callender, wrote that Adams was “a rageful, lying, warmongering fellow; a ‘repulsive pedant’ and ‘gross hypocrite’ who ‘behaved neither like a man nor like a woman but instead possessed a hideous hermaphroditical character.’”
An interesting side note to the above story: Callender expected to be named postmaster as a reward for his support. When Jefferson appointed someone else, Callender wrote a series if articles charging the new president with having fathered children with a slave named Sally Hemings. In this election, no one was exempt and the candidates’ wives were also subjected to public name-calling. In the words of one historian, the election of 1828 boiled down to: “do you want to vote for someone whose wife is a whore or do you want to vote for someone who pimped for the czar of Russia?”
ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Jefferson was elected, and later he and Adams mended fences and became close friends, but the tradition lived on.
Things seemed to reach the anonymous-ad boiling point in 1988 with the Willie Horton TV ad consisting of a mug shot of convicted murderer William Horton. This criminal was released as part of the weekend furlough program, escaped, and committed more crimes.
The ad was produced by supporters of a candidate without his authorization, and devastated the other candidate, setting the later stage for the bipartisan adoption of the as part of the SBYD in 2002… twenty years ago.
But the relentless, undying ingenuity of the American Political System has found ways to continue the example set by our forefathers who, after all, were just human beings like everyone else. That’s my message and I’m sticking with it.