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Friday, November 2, 2012

Buying the U.S. Presidency: Is It Worth the Money?

English: Seal of the President of the United S...
English: Seal of the President of the United States Español: Escudo del Presidente de los Estados Unidos Македонски: Печат на Претседателот на Соединетите Американски Држави. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Is There No End? 

      Am I the only one who has noticed the deluge of advertising about the 2012 U.S. elections?   Of course not!  Even if you don't watch television or listen to the radio, you have in some way been affected by campaign advertising.

           Some of you may feel like 4 year old Abigael Evans whose viral video received national media attention over the past couple of days (you can see the video below if you missed it).  Or if you're like me, you merely shut most of the advertising out.   Still I can't help but notice the ads everywhere.  In every mail delivery for the past few months my household has received bundles of fliers for candidates and state propositions.  Most of these end up in my recycle bin without even a second glance.

           I can only shake my head at the tremendous waste of resources in generating all of this printed material.  Multiply my household by all of the others in Los Angeles and we have decimated more than a few trees to create refuse that few will pay attention to.

            Sure, the advertising agencies, the printers, and the media outlets are reaping a financial boon in the season leading to election day.  I'm all for any boost to the economy, but still I wonder if it could be done a better way.   The ads are starting to drive some of us nuts and for whose benefit besides those who create the ads and those who deliver them?

            In the end, spending on both the Democrat and Republican sides will exceed one billion dollars for each party.   This doesn't even include spending by the independents, the other races for offices, or the state propositions and referendums.   Billions and billions of dollars!   The impact of this spending will overall not be very great for most of us other than the irritation it provides.

An Alternative?

           There have been suggestions that Obama and Romney forgo advertising from now to election day in order to contribute remaining funds to help the victims of the recent megastorm Sandy.  Since most of the spending has already been done the remaining funds would be a mere pittance in comparison.   The gesture might look good, but I don't see it happening.

           We've already had the debates and daily coverage of the presidential campaigns.  Do we really need the constant barrage of mostly negative ads?   Whatever happened to volunteer campaigners who were on fire for a cause they believed in?   Maybe no one cares that much anymore.

           It might be nice if future campaigns took a more responsible approach to getting messages across to the voters.   Wise campaign spending could be an exemplary statement about what a candidate will do with our money should he (or she) become president.

            Yeah, that's ridiculous I know.   Americans don't want practical campaigns.  Or do they?  Maybe all this crap is being foisted upon us by the media.   Somewhere a voice of reason needs to start crying out--for crying out loud.

             Do the dollars make the difference?    Are Americans getting their money's worth with the presidents they get?   What would be a better approach to choosing a major world leader like a U.S. president?

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  1. I actually agree with the idea of using remaining advertising money to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy although I don't believe it'll ever happen because both parties will believe too much is at stake to bother with important things like that. You're right Lee that there should be a better way of being elected than through advertising but unfortunately in this world that we live in, in fact in society from a historical standpoint, we are always going to rely on propaganda and advertising to gain in politics. Look at all the senator races going on where the winner is usually the person who does the best, most expensive advertising campaign, it's sad but unfortunately it's true.

  2. It is a waste and as you said, mostly negative. Can't wait for Tuesday to come and go. And people shouldn't be making a decision like that based off of a commercial.

  3. Hi Lee - I agree with Alex .. and funds should be utilised where they're most needed. We see it here too ... sadly most people base their views on media headlines and believe them (which is worse .. as they're out of context usually) ...

    I have to say I'll be grateful once Tuesday comes - then there's the furore til January ..

    Cheers Hilary

  4. That's why only wealthy people can run for office. Then again, do we really want a broke person running the country?

    Please let Tuesday come soon!

  5. They should each have one month to campaign, then we get to vote. That would give them plenty of time to debate and answer questions.

    Here's to Tuesday. It can't come soon enough!

  6. Yeamie -- It's a sad statement about the political climate in democratic societies.

    Alex -- I wonder how many voters actually do make their decisions on the basis of the advertising.

    Hilary -- Advertising is mind manipulation that doesn't always appeal to the real facts.

    L.Diane -- A person of moderate means with a rich grasp on the affairs would be nice, but money is power.

    C. Lee -- Some kind of limitations would be good, but we'd still have the primaries. I'm sure some issue of constitutionality would enter into limiting the campaigns.


  7. 'I can only shake my head at the tremendous waste of resources in generating all of this printed material.'

    EVERY time I go to the mailbox, I think the same thing.

    That video was priceless. Got in a good laugh and wanted to hug that little munchkin.

  8. I definitely agree with the majority of comments. I also feel like the little girl in the video. After one local ad "vote on question 7" and it coming on every 15 minutes, I almost threw a shoe at the TV. Through the day I tune into the Cartoon Network or just listen to the radio! Great post btw!

  9. The little girl is very cute and I share her emotions too.
    I think both the candidates have lost their sense of magnanimity.

  10. The reason the ads work is that most people will never bother to educate themselves about the issues. Most people, unfortunately, just vote with their party, because that's easier than making a decision for themselves. The ads are aimed at all those people that are somewhere in the middle, the ones that actually swing the election. The whole process is rather disgusting. NPR had a piece about how much money is being spent per swing voter, and it's just outrageous.
    BUT! if you decide not to spend your money that, the other person will win. Period.
    The only solution is that people actually get up off their asses and put their brains to work actually figuring out the issues and what they believe about them, and that's just never gonna happen.

  11. Interestingly, there is an add at the bottom of the blog post asking for contributions to Mitt Romney.. I think our whole system needs to be revamped. We should have primaries all on the same day so that all of American can vote for all of the candidates -- by the time it got to California it didn't matter who I voted for, it wouldn't make a difference. I also think the campaigning should only be allowed to last for 6 weeks. Two years is ridiculous. I mean the president spends 25-50% of his time in office working on getting reelected. and the money.. I can think of a million more useful ways to spend all that money.

  12. Suze -- That political junk mail is printed on some nice quality stock for the most part and there is so much repetition. I swear I've gotten things from the same organizations more than once, but since I hardly look at them I couldn't say for sure.

    Gossip Girl -- I tend to listen to talk radio a lot, but even that is becoming over-saturated with the same stuff over and over.

    Munir -- I don't know if we should blame the candidates as much as the machines behind them. They are mostly just pawns I think.

    Andrew -- You're right about the voter education process never happening. Probably even when we try to ignore the ads a lot of the info sifts into our subconscious and influences us. Kind of like the fast food commercials. And you're also right about one side countering the other. Would there be any effect to benefit a candidate who made a big deal out of not advertising and spending much of the donation money for good? Could news coverage and the efforts of a good PR staff make up for no advertising? Who's brave enough to try it first?

    Thea -- The Ad Sense ads tend to be related to blog post content and they also rotate. The parties are spending money on all media and that's pretty amazing how many bases they have to cover. I don't think limitation of campaign time would fly too well and besides, politicians are politicians and getting the job never stops them from politicking.


  13. The problem there is that you'd have to advertise that you weren't advertising to get the kind of coverage to make that work, which would defeat the purpose.

  14. Absolutely 100$ agree, Lee! I block out the advertising, research the candidates, and don't let the media influence my decision. I've long believed that all that campaign money could be put to much better use. Don't tell me how you're going to help the homeless when you're spending millions of dollars on sending out junk mail. Don't tell me what you have to cut from the budget because there isn't enough money when you're pumping millions of dollars into TV ads. And for God's sake stop the lying and mud-slinging! Is that how you want to get your job? Seriously, would you ever hire an employee who used those tactics?

  15. I, fortunately, live in a state that is already blue for Obama so the presidential ads here are non-existent. Otherwise I'd find myself having to suffer through the presidential ads as well as the congressional spots.

    I'm all for limited campaigning. No one is going to change their mind. Even so-called independent voters already know who they are voting for by now. Too much money is spent on campaigns and unfortunately it's mostly rich companies who buy up the ad space, not the candidates, though they do have their war chests to be sure.

  16. The phone calls, the never ending phone calls.
    We stopped answering the telephone several weeks ago because 90% of the calls were political surveys/reminders to vote/some famous person endorsing a candidate, etc.
    We'll begin answering the phone again next Wednesday.

  17. I agree that they need to take the same amount of money and spend it on something worthwhile - like helping out the victimes of Sandy. I would love to actually see their charitable spending, and watch them have a charitable spending war . . . let's see if they put their money in the things they say they believe in at every campaign stop.
    Or they can limit their spending to something like $1 million each, or less.

  18. Andrew -- Good PR people might think of effective ways to get the message out there without much advertising. The cost of the best PR reps would offset the millions spent on advertising.

    Jaq-- You said it well.

    Melissa -- I wouldn't mind having what one candidate spends. I could live comfortably for a while and my spending would be more practical.

    Elizabeth -- Fortunately I haven't been getting many of the phone calls yet, but I expect them to start a day or two before election day.

    Tyrean -- A charitable spending war sounds like a good idea.


  19. I'm a non-American who lives in Singapore, but I've got emails and tweets asking for contributions to Mitt Romney's fund!

    I feel sorry for the wastage, and for the stress Americans have to go through. I'd be no better than that sobbing girl if I were put through that barrage.

  20. Dollars make the difference. Most elections are purchased. As long as that works entities will pour as much money as necessary into paying for advertising. With the condition of the country morally, financially, militarily, respectibility, and stability it is obvious we have not reaped the benefits of purchased elections.

    First, eliminate the salary and perks. Take away Air Force One, Camp David, junkets, etc. Limit the number to seven true public servant hearted inidiviuals who were serve at their own expense and then when no one applies for the job, look for the most sucessful CEO of a company started by and run sucessfully for a minimum of 20 years and install him.

  21. BOIDMAN ~
    I ain't a-gonna say much. But I will say THIS:

    That video was an instant CLASSIC! I literally "Laughed Out Loud".

    And lastly...
    Andrew's first comment, in which he referenced NPR, spoke volumes.

    I'll let you interpret THAT remark in whatever way you choose. (But... you KNOW me.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

  22. Damyanti -- The U.S. elections have gone international. I'm sure contributors worldwide dole in funds for their favorite candidates.

    Gregg - Your plan is interesting, but I'd hate for us to be paying some of the high yearly salaries companies pay CEO's. Corruption abounds in our nation along with the rest of the world.

    StMc -- Yes, I know a bit about you and I know exactly what you are saying. Kids like that little girl need to be the real spokespersons and commentators for our country. Most of the adults have it wrong.


  23. Classic! Gotta love little Abby. I think she speaks for most Americans.

  24. Lee you misunderstood, I say that we don't pay the president, he serves at his own expense. We only want a CEO type who has been sucessful at what he has built not pay him a CEO salary. Hopefully there are still men who would serve for love of country rather than financial compensation.

  25. Lee-

    Great post! As to Andrew's first comment, while I am a little late to the party, can I get an AMEN!

    Americans put less thought into their vote than they do their choice of a Super Bowl team to root for.

    While I do not mind the dollars spent on campaign ads, I would love to see some guidelines.

    (1) The ad has to mention something the candidate would DO, not something the other candidate did, did not do, or might or might not do.

    (2) If you are an incumbent and are running for another position (a sentaor running for president for example), you must RESIGN YOUR CURRENT POSITION in order to campaign. I've lived in Arizona for seventeen years, and all John McCain has done is run for the presidency on my dime. Enough!

    (3)For the sitting president, he gets the two months before election day, and his campaign should not interefere with his day job.

    Nor should his campaign include appearances on "The Daily Show."

    You're the friggin' president.

    What's next-you host Saturday Night Live?

    It's not too late to write in Ron Paul!


  26. Stephen - I'll let her speak for me.

    Gregg--I'd like to think there are service minded individuals who would lead the U.S. for love of country, but I seriously kind of doubt it and if they did I'd be afraid of their motives.


  27. Larry -- Points well taken. I like your ideas.


  28. I know exactly how Abigael feels. The whole Presidential selection process has become an inescapable bore that starts almost immediately after the last election has completed. I'd like nothing better than to put the task of choosing a President in the hands of the House of Representatives, and that of the Vice-President in the hands of the Senate. Let us pick the people who represent us in Congress and leave the nasty business in their hands.

  29. I've been boycotting tv, limiting radio, and not answering phone calls. And still I have the mail. Ugh! I have never seen it so bad.

  30. Frankly, I tune all the advertising out.

    I do believe the amount of money spent by both sides during this election cycle could have been put to better use.

    I would like to see monthly debates in multiple formats - perhaps for a 12 month period leading up to the election. Campaign stops could be limited to one per candidate, per state - that's it. I can dream can't I? ;-D

  31. Lee you are right..the money should be spent on relief for the victims of Super Storm Sandy...I too am sick of all the ads...cannot wait until it is over and done with. Sorry I have not been by in so long! I will try to keep up with you from now on! And on a totally separate note...I have decided to write a series of blog posts about being thankful..for the month of November...I am trying to start a "Count your many blessings" movement within the blogging community...I will post on Sunday the 4th for Nov. 1-4 then next week 5-11 and so on...are ya with me? Pass it along either way, and link back to me...blessings and hugs! new blog

  32. oh and by the way I am originally from Faith Hope and Love blog!

  33. Onehand -- Your suggestion could be an interesting approach if it were kept fair and balanced. There's an awful lot of campaigning for the legislative seats as well though.

    Ruth -- I find it difficult to resist answering the phone, but I do find the automated phone calls rather annoying--I can't have fun with them.

    Paula -- I tend to tune out most commercials whether they deal with politics or not. In fact I tend to avoid TV most of the time.

    Running -- I think all of us have much or at least something to be thankful for whether we realize it or not.


  34. We had a problem locally with candidates stuffing fliers in the mailbox -- these were not mailed. It's actually against the law.


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