Is there such a thing as a non-negative campaign ad?

Although I don’t watch much television, I do watch the evening news, and sometimes leave on the local news after that. And when I wake up, I listen to the morning headlines and weather as I get dressed. But even in this small window of time I hear plenty of campaign ads. And all of them, almost without exception, are negative. Virtually none of them give real positions on issues by the candidate (I did hear one this morning by a candidate saying he supports “a woman’s right to choose”, but that’s the rare exception). They involve tearing down the other candidate. I even heard an ad for a Republican candidate showing nasty clips of both Clinton and Trump, thereby disassociating himself with Trump—a tactic that may or may not be good in November.

While negative campaigning has been ubiquitous for a while, it now seems omnipresent. I date the modern era of Negative Campaigning from the famous anti-Goldwater “daisy” ad promulgated by LBJ supporters in 1964. If you haven’t seen it, implying that a Goldwater Presidency would lead to nuclear war, have a look. It was remarkably effective (be sure you put the sound on).

And I wonder what it is that has caused this change. Perhaps research has shown that negative ads are more effective than positive ones. Perhaps politics is simply getting more divisive, though I don’t really know why. Perhaps both are true. But what is clear is that the tenor of our political discourse is debased: we are reduced to calling each other names. And that’s not how democracy is supposed to function. It’s sad, and it’s why I don’t watch debates.

Examples can be found on both Right- and Left-wing sites. Because I lean Left, I particularly hate negativity among liberals. Here, for example, is the headline on today’s HuffPo page: a site that reeks of brimstone:


“Monster”? HuffPo is descending into complete, abject lunacy, not only calling Trump a “monster” but using any accusation, real or simply out there, that can to defeat him. The thing is, Trump’s already lost (if you don’t think so, email me and we’ll make a bet), and those who read the site aren’t going to vote for him anyway. In fact, HuffPo resembles my Facebook page, full of good liberal “friends” who can’t stop posting about Trump’s latest perfidies—especially his sexual behavior. I don’t quite get it.


  1. Sagan Worshipper
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Bernie Sanders ran only non-negative campaigns throughout his entire career, but I’d like to pose a question here that was asked by Sagan in The Demon Haunted World. This seems rhetorical, but I am genuinely curious as to what you think, in light of the candidates that we currently must choose between.

    “When we consider the founders of our nation – Jefferson, Washington, Samuel and John Adams, Madison and Monroe, Benjamin Franklin, Tom Paine and many others – we have before us a list of at least ten and maybe even dozens of great political leaders. They were well educated. Products of the European Enlightenment, they were students of history. They knew human fallibility and weakness and corruptibility. They were fluent in the English language. They wrote their own speeches. They were realistic and practical, and at the same time motivated by high principles. They were not checking the pollsters on what to think this week. They knew what to think. They were comfortable with long-term thinking, planning even further ahead than the next election. They were self-sufficient, not requiring careers as politicians or lobbyists to make a living. They were able to bring out the best in us. They were interested in and, at least two of them, fluent in science. They attempted to set a course for the United States into the far future – not so much by establishing laws as by setting limits on what kinds of laws could be passed. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights have done remarkably well, constituting, despite human weaknesses, a machine able, more often than not, to correct its own trajectory. At that time, there were only about two and a half million citizens of the United States. Today there are over a hundred times more. So if there were ten people of the caliber of Thomas Jefferson then, there ought to be 10 x 100 = 1,000 Thomas Jeffersons today. Where are they?”

    • darrelle
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think there is any doubt that there are at least 1,000 Thomas Jefferson’s in the US population. How do you expect them to reach high political office? They have to rely on votes. If Thomas Jefferson ran today he would be vilified by the Republican Party and approximately half the voting public would surely vote against him.

      Though he might be welcome in the Democratic Party it doesn’t seem likely that he would ever become a leader and a sure bet he would not win a presidential nomination. He’d have to play the game to do that.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Their slave ownership would probably be held against them…

        • darrelle
          Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

          🙂 By some at least.

        • eric
          Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          My cynical side says that Jefferson’s cutting all the miracles out of the bible would cost him more votes.

    • Historian
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      We shouldn’t accept the myth that the early presidential elections were some kind of profound, philosophical debates on the nature of government and policy. No, they were quite dirty, even by today’s sordid standards. The election of 1800 between incumbent John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had moments that Donald Trump would appreciate.

      This article provides the details.

      • Matt
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        This is certainly true. The things said in papers back then were crazy.

    • kieran
      Posted October 14, 2016 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      There was a planter’s mentality to the founding fathers of America.
      In Ireland planter’s where English landlords who took over land during the plantations. Now some were bad and some were mad but many had a way of thinking that wasn’t just five years down the line but five hundred. I saw evidence of this when doing countryside surveys, plantation would have a long avenue of two hundred year old ash, carefully planted so that it would produce straight wood. There is no way this would’ve benefited the person who planted but such was their thinking that they felt it would benefit their great great grand children. We need a return to that type of thinking in many areas such as climate change, agriculture and general planning but it’s unlikely to win many votes

    • Robert Bray
      Posted October 14, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      The vilification of Tom Paine by the (mostly Protestant) Christian Church shows how nasty American politics was becoming by the late 18th century, a phenomenon that would intensify as evangelical Christianity overspread the developing country in the first half of the 19th. ‘Infidelism’ was a common charge against any politician who did not fit the mold of born-again Protestant Christian. Abraham Lincoln had to answer such a charge in the Illinois congressional race against the Methodist preacher Peter Cartwright in 1846 (ironically, he WAS an infidel by evangelical lights).

      Lincoln was perhaps the last candidate for president not to play dirty. He was canny but not dirty. As He was treated dirty but did not retaliate in kind. True, as a younger politician he proved master of invective and could reduce opponents almost to tears with his attacks, which were either satirical or deadly serious. But by 1860 that was all over. Lincoln had been viciously attacked as an ‘n—— lover’ by Democrats south and north, in words and images (‘original gorilla’ etc.) but he steadfastly kept to the key principles of Republicanism as he knew it: no extension of slavery, a moral wrong, into new American territory.

      • Posted October 15, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        However, I’d be much scared by a leader saying that “every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”.

        • Robert Bray
          Posted October 17, 2016 at 8:40 am | Permalink

          That’s not exactly what Lincoln said in that part of his Second Inaugural Address from which you quote. Here’s the full sentence:

          ‘Yet, if God wills that it [the Civil War] continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”‘

          Disturbing enough, to be sure; but in the subjunctive mood, the hypothetical.

    • Posted October 14, 2016 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      I wonder if there’s some sort of analogous-to-natural-selection thing going.

      The Founders got a few things right, including some stuff maybe by chance, and that moves the country into a “fitness landscape” where it is difficult to move to anywhere better because many tracks away are worse.

      (I think of this is true in general of growth based economics as it stands – almost all of the paths away suck horribly [or don’t solve the problem either], but growth based is also long term suicidal.)

  2. littleboybrew
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Name calling does no good. It likely serves to reinforce his base of support. I prefer to remain focused on the fact that he is ill prepared to lead, and has demonstrated no real ideas in his rhetoric. These are the arguments that are more likely to convince any voter who might still be on the fence.

    • Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      “Name calling does no good. It likely serves to reinforce his base of support.”

      I agree, Casey Neistat (of $21,000 flight fame) has gotten considerable blowback from trempets for telling it like he sees it.

  3. Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    According to my twitter feed, from a man who is part psephologist, part gambler, a woman in Northumberland who has never bet before has staked £170,000 with Hills on Clinton at odds of 1/8. Potential winnings £21,250.

    Mug’s bet. Mind you, she’ll probably win.

  4. Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I consider Trump to be a monster (sociopath), well as much as any human can be. If I heard tomorrow that he had had business rivals killed I wouldn’t be surprised. And I can imagine given a circumstance where if exterminating all Muslims was politically advantageous, he would do so.

    • somer
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      I agree, he cares nothing about anyone, though he doesnt come from the dangerous path of gangsterland, so I don’t think the first is likely (as opposed to hypothetical muslim slaughter if he were, say, in the Philippines). Problem is though he is so vain with it, he cannot control his personality excesses – which benefit him with idiots but eventually turn off everyone else. On top of that the sex videos and allegations are important because they turn off much the bulk of half the population that is female. I think he’s very unlikely to win but find it completely shocking that the Republican party could have nominated him, and some of them are still vocally support him (e.g. Ben Carson, Rubio etc.). When I last looked – just before the 2nd Pres debate – he had a big gap in the states which is all that counts
      His vote has fluctuated wildly but since then I can only imagine the gap has widened with all these extra allegations coming out and many Republicans publicly getting cold feet about him though of course he party can’t dump him . Lots of people will probably decide not to vote so it ain’t over til its over.

  5. harrync
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    If you run an ad saying you favor “X”, you may have just lost the vote of everyone who opposes “X”. Better to run an ad saying “My opponent drowns little kittens.”

    • Posted October 14, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      This is (alas) an enthymematic argument for the importance of education. After all, presumably, one should say, “X, because Y and Z” with Y and Z plausible for many people, etc.

  6. Pliny the in Between
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

    “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

    One was Jefferson about Adams the other was Adams about Jefferson…

    • Daniel
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      One is attacking character, the other attacking the immutable characteristics of race. I see a difference. Personally, Jefferson was an extremely amiable man, reluctant to criticize even his sworn enemies. He displayed a bust of his arch-adversary Alexander Hamilton in the vestibule at Monticello.

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I see both as negative ‘ads’. It’s not a judgement on the private personas of these men just that negative campaigning has been around since the beginning. If it ever stops working I’m sure candidates will stop using it.

  7. GBJames
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    “Clean” presidential campaigns are, I think, mostly imaginary.

    Negative campaigning goes back as far as 1796 when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson contended for the office. I think George Washington is the only candidate that wasn’t scurrilously attacked during a campaign. Here’s a story about one dirty campaign. Imagine the TV ads attacking Andrew Jackson with: “General Jackson’s mother was a common prostitute, brought to this country by the British soldiers! She afterward married a mulatto man, with whom she had several children, of which number General Jackson is one!”

  8. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    “Monster”? HuffPo is descending into complete, abject lunacy, not only calling Trump a “monster”…

    What would it take for you to consider that nonhyperbolic? Leaving his sexual predation out of it; he has promised to order our military to commit war crimes, threatened to throw his opponent in jail if he wins, impinged upon freedom of the press, and displayed bigotry towards large swaths of humanity. Comparison to mid-20th century dictators does not seem out of line.

    • Daniel
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I agree.

      • Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        As I made clear in another comment, I agree as well.

    • Matt
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink


    • Historian
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      One definition of “monster” from Merriam-Webster is: “a powerful person or thing that cannot be controlled and that causes many problems.” Based on this definition, to me, indeed, Trump is a monster

      • Kevin
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        My son recently turned in his 7th grade vocab words and their use in sentence form went something like:

        Trump is a ‘menace’. If elected, it would be a ‘calamity’. He is likely a ‘culprit’ of his ‘predatory’ behavior toward women.

      • Marta
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        Trump can’t be a monster. He’s not a blood drinking evil dictator. Or a 90′ lizard with teeth.

        All Trump wants to do is build a wall to keep out the murdering, raping Mexicans. Oh, and grab women’s pussies when he’s in the mood.

        So that’s all right then.

    • somer
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink


    • somer
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      Agree – However Huffpo having that in the headline followed by the breathless tirade is counterproductive. Better to explain/summarise his positions, his past record, flip flops and “policies” and its clear to the reader what he is. In the body of the text could use harsh descriptors of him or even describe his positions as “monstrous” but its a word to use with discretion.

  9. Christopher
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Showing the atom bomb daisy girl ad was possibly the only joy I experienced in my brief time as a high school history teacher. Their reactions were genuine shock and amazement that anything like that had been used in a campaign, and these are kids who grew up in the Bush era.

    • Pliny the in Between
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      If I’m not mistaken, the ad was only aired one time but endlessly rehashed in the media in a very successful viral campaign.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted October 14, 2016 at 5:13 am | Permalink

      In an interesting example of pareidolia, if you pause the video at 0:49, you can see the face of Satan growling at you.

  10. darrelle
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Going by the Daisy ad it looks like negative political campaign ads made it to TV pretty much as soon as TV became fairly common. I’d be surprised if there were any significant periods of time in any human society anywhere, ever, in which negative political campaigning was not common.

    • eric
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Here you can find two “attack ads” (cartoons) put together by Martin Luther in the protestant reformation. The link also talks about mud-slinging cartoons being used in the US in the 1870s. So yup, I’d say negative campaign ads are older than the medium of TV.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        Interesting site. Thanks.

  11. eric
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps research has shown that negative ads are more effective than positive ones.

    This would be my guess. I’d also note that a strategy doesn’t have to necessarily be popular to be effective, because people do not always act the way they say they would act. Its entirely possible that the majority say they find attack ads off-putting and don’t listen to them, yet attack ads change more votes than positive ads.

    I’m reminded of an old interview I heard with a radio station manager. The manager got asked why the station doesn’t play a bigger variety of music. Why always the same popular crap repeated? His answer was revealing: while in surveys listeners almost uniformly say they want more variety, other more direct metrics of listener behavior show people turn the station when something unfamiliar comes on. IOW, what people thought they liked and what they actually liked was different. My guess is something similar is true of attack ads; they’re unpopular but effective, the same way playing the same hit songs 2x daily instead of a wider variety of music may be unpopular but effective.

  12. Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I dislike negative ads as much as anybody, but they’ve been around a long while. Guess when some republicans claimed this of the democrats:

    “the rendezvous of thieves, the home of parasites and bloodsuckers, the enemy of God and man, the stereotyped fraud, the sham, the hypocrite, the merciless marauder, and the outlaw renegade and malefactor.”


    Full article here:

  13. Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I find your fascination with HuffPo to be fascinating. It is not a news organization. It is a journalistic dumpster fire. I understand that it’s like a trainwreck that you can’t turn away from, but I’m surprised that you seem to continue to be amazed at how bad it is. You wrote, “HuffPo is descending into complete, abject lunacy…” Hasn’t it been there for some time? I consider calling Trump a “monster” to be a minor transgression compared to some of the “Islamophobia” and “SWJ” related stuff it’s posted. I think you’re giving HuffPo way too much credit if it is capable of surprising or disappointing you.

    • Posted October 13, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      “SJW,” of course, not “SWJ”

    • Craw
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think it,s PuffHo that disappoints him; it’s that so many lefties eat this stuff up that sites like PuffHo can flourish. PuffHo is proof of the popularity on the left of the two minute hate. Shouldn’t that disappoint any self-respecting leftie?

      • Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Craw, that’s pretty much the explanation. I guess I’m a masochist for continuing to look at the site.

      • Posted October 14, 2016 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        “PuffHo is proof of the popularity on the left of the two minute hate.”

        It’s been my experience that hate on the right lasts rather longer than two minutes. Politics is not now nor has it ever been nice and liberals only hamstring ourselves by holding to a different standard than our opponents. Is it uncomfortable? Yes, but so is a prostate exam. I’d rather be uncomfortable and know I’m healthy, just as I’d rather sling a little mud rather than live with unworkable or damaging policy from the right.

  14. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    I am tempted by your bet. If you win I will experience ecstasy. If I win I shall get some compensation however modest. However, I am against gambling!

  15. Matt
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Here in Arizona, I saw a Hillary ad about her jobs program. It was entirely positive.

  16. Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    I have no problems with a sexual predator being drummed outta town.

  17. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The conventional wisdom in national politics is for a candidate facing an opponent with a higher negative rating to do what it takes to keep that opponent’s negative rating higher than your own. Consequently, for Hillary, who is both a sedulous follower of conventional wisdom and has higher negative ratings of her own than any previous presidential candidate from either party, it follows that she would run negative ads against Trump.

    For Trump, whose “negatives” are unprecedented in the history of the Republic, going negative is simply his raison d’être. In any dispute with a man, Trump seeks to emasculate. As for women, he views them solely as a uterus with an attached face-tits-&-ass man-attracting life-support system.

  18. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Comparisons of today’s politics and politicians with our first office holders in the late 1700s is nothing more than apples/oranges and essentially a waste of your time. First thing to note is that the 18th century culture and society was so foreign to today’s it could be a different planet. They did not think like we do or act like we do. At first, the average man would not think of holding any office even at state level, it just wasn’t done. Only the higher, elite classes did these thing.

    Also, the people did not vote for president. So campaigning to the people was not done, and it was even considered low behavior to do so. The people did not vote for their Senators either at the federal level. Only house members were voted for by those allowed to vote. That would be only white males, only of a certain class or amount of land or money must be owned. It was no Democracy and any thought that it was is just wishful thinking. So compare away.

    • Historian
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      American society in the late 18th and early 19th centuries is sometimes referred to as a deferential society. That is, the common people accepted the notion that government would be run by the elites. The electorate was small, limited largely to white men with some property (as determined by each state). By the second quarter of the 19th century voting rights had been expanded to include most white men, regardless of the property they owned.

      The method of voting for president has remained essentially constant throughout American history, except as modified by the 12th amendment (1804). Voters do not vote directly for president. They vote for a slate of electors, who cast ballots in the Electoral College for their particular states. That is why there have been instances where a candidate with the most votes nationwide still lost the presidency. The latest example of such a situation was in 2000 when George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore, but still became president after the Supreme Court decided that he had won Florida.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        … a deferential society. That is, the common people accepted the notion that government would be run by the elites.

        I’m guessing that era came to an abrupt end with the election of the nation’s first populist president, Andrew Jackson?

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        My point being that comparisons of today’s methods with the processes used in the beginning years of our existence are not likely to mean anything. Regardless of the electoral college or 12th amendment there is little to compare. I believe G.W. won Florida by gift of the Supreme Court so the travesty was more than just the electoral results.

        Literal comparisons that many enjoy making between these eras causes such damaging results and bad court decisions that have us where we are with the second amendment.

      • Posted October 15, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Haven’t been there attempts to make the US president elected directly by voters? What is the rationale for the two-step vote?

  19. Posted October 13, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    There is something Huffpo is actually good for: gathering poll data. Sam Wang over at The Princeton Election Consortium ( ( uses Huffpo to gather his data. He, by the way, has been perhaps the most accurate of the poll aggregators, and he’s currently estimating the probability of a Clinton win at 97%, so I don’t think I’ll take that bet unless you give me about 50:1 odds.

  20. Kevin
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Negative ads are like the ads of a young woman running through fields of sunflowers rushing to meet her friend with a dog only to have the words, e.g., Xonaxathilgood (made up) appear on the screen. As if I am supposed to know what the hell Xonasathilgood is.

  21. enl
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    One of the candidates (*****) has gone to the same place in the last few days, making the statement that if _____ is elected, the downfall of civilization will occur, while one of the candidate’s Russian friends outright said that there will be nuclear war.

    I leave it to you to fill in the blanks…

  22. Gregg
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    I think what’s going on seems illogical because you are viewing it through the lens of evidence and reason (probably a habit from your years as a scientist)as regards the relevant policy issues. People do the unnecessary repeating of some information not to inform or edify, but simply as social reinforcement to show one is part of a tribe. Perhaps a form of “virtue signaling”?

  23. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Hey, it’s alright. As a certain Nobel prize winner once said, even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.

  24. Posted October 13, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    I deactivated Facebook the other day and I’m not coming back until the election is over. The Trump crowd is in abject denial and the insults are getting worse. I know a handful of Trump supporters (some in my family) and it all they do is repeat Breitbart tropes and Trump catch phrases. I’ve tried engaging in a reasonable manner, but lately it’s degraded to personal insults including one family member who has had a recent religious awakening who insists on taking a condescending tone and declaring everyone who won’t vote Trump to be murderers because of the abortion issue. I’ve had enough. Open discourse thrives on ideas, not insults and personal attacks. Yes, there is a lot of nastiness on the left too, but the only place I’ve seen cogent criticism as well as discussion of issues in this campaign is still on the left. Trump should be attacked for his complete ignorance on almost every issue, but there is also a lot of distractions out there (such as the anti-PC crowd that Trump thrives on calling out).

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      I should think your name’s been drawing heat from the Right ever since Christopher Buckley took leave of National Review in 2008 and endorsed Obama.

      • Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        My namesake foresaw the implosion of that party before I did, for sure. I thought Palin was a blip on the radar. Instead, she was the proverbial snowball that started the avalanche into complete lunacy. There is no viable alternative to the Democrats in this country and that’s a sad state for democracy. Hopefully, Trump marks final straw to create a full schism on the right. Maybe the mainstream Republicans regroup as something resembling Democrats now, which allows the Democrats to go left. The Tea Party can be relegated to a fringe third party, where they belong.

        • Kevin
          Posted October 14, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          Palin is a coincidence to the beginning of the end. And Trump will not be the end either.

          The albatross that hangs around all of politics, but most heavily on GOP is…..religion.

          Clearly not all conservatives are ‘deplorables’ (in fact most are not). But few people are aware just how plainly dissecting our society is becoming as more people privately do not have religious faith. And this is painful when they have to think about the platform their party is publicly supporting.

          This isn’t about a party imploding it’s about quiet apostation.

          In the future, you will likely see successful GOP members attain local and state positions so long as they demonstrate their reasoning is not shackled to religion.

          • Posted October 14, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

            I think you nailed it. The country as a whole is becoming more secular, but those who are religious are clinging to it with more gusto. But, so long as the Republicans cling to this mindset, I say they are inploding. Oddly enough, I think Trump may be a manifestation of the dropping religiosity. Evangelicals still support him, but he pays little more than lip service to their cause. The fact that the religious right is willing to embrace such a despicable candidate shows they’re losing the battle. They couldn’t get one of their own in, so they’re willing to give a narcissistic maniac the attention hr craves in exchange for policy they can agree with.

  25. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    People who ran negative campaign adverts over the last several decades (and so, 10+ electoral “generations”) left more descendants in office. Others left fewer descendants in office. There were several generations. This is evolution in action.
    Sorry. But it’s true. There’s a book about it somewhere.

  26. ladyatheist
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, there is actual evidence that negative ads work better than positive ads. I admit that I decided on a race today after seeing a negative ad for the congressional seat in my area (though I probably wouldn’t have voted for the “carpetbagger” because of party affiliation anyway)

    • Posted October 14, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Which should immediately prompt the follow up research into – first, why; secondly, can conditions be created so that they do not work as effectively, thirdly; what can we do to implement what is discovered in the second.

  27. Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    “Trump’s already lost (if you don’t think so, email me and we’ll make a bet)”

    How would we prove that he has or hasn’t lost at this point? I don’t think many people think he’s likely to win, but that’s different from thinking the probability is zero and we should no longer be concerned (IMO).

  28. somer
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Have to say that Huffpo headline is a hyperventilated shocker (and for its general style) Huffpo is pretty low grade and light on journalistic standards), which doesn’t mean all its articles are crap. I very rarely read Huffpo (Im sick of regressive articles though for years I made myself read regressive articles and essays because I think its important to see what both sides of politics are thinking even if you don’t agree so long as the sources are reasonably credible). Still on other sources, I sometimes see reference to the occasional good article from Huffpo. I confess I saw a tweet of the Huffpo video of him “lurking” with monster music at the presidential debate and couldn’t resist it. After all that is a really bad look with a lot of people and it is something he actually did.

  29. Posted October 14, 2016 at 12:41 am | Permalink

    Such ads were once called propaganda, and that is what they probably are. If anything, the situation has more or less crushed any trust in journalism, and we have a crisis of reason, too. There was once the information age, and we seemed to have progressed quickly into the post-factual feelz age.

    • Posted October 14, 2016 at 2:09 am | Permalink

      The information age just meant that there was more information available to, and from, more people, not that the information to be had was any more reasonable or less biased than before.

      • Posted October 14, 2016 at 2:47 am | Permalink

        My use here was polemical, and not meant in the technical sense. But it’s not that far off as it appears, since the ages are named after what (innovation) drives the culture at the time. However, I don’t think “Feelz Age” will enter scholary discourse anytime soon 😉

  30. VRandom
    Posted October 14, 2016 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    The thing is, Trump’s already lost (if you don’t think so, email me and we’ll make a bet), and those who read the site aren’t going to vote for him anyway.

    I don’t think I agree with your definition of “already lost”. He still have a positive chance of winning, specially if a juicy scandal about Hillary Clinton pops up (which is not unlikely given all the hacking that’s been going on).

    And sure, the readers of HuffPo are very likely not going to vote for Trump but A) they might not vote, or B) they might vote for someone other than Hillary, and C) this puts much more pressure on House and Senate races. So talking about Trump’s new scandals is not useless at all and in fact, it should be exploited by Democrats as much as possible to drive Republicans out of Senate or House.

    Finally, I don’t see what’s the problem with calling Trump a “monster”, well, except that it leaves our the word “incompetent” but if you include that, then “an incompetent monster” is a very apt description of Trump and as long as he is the nominee of one of the two major parties in US, it is fair to talk about him.

  31. Posted October 14, 2016 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I understand that the negativity and petty name calling can be irritating. Butthere is no shortage of conservatives whom would gleefully threaten to shoot myself or Professor Coyne or nearly any other reader of this website just for being an atheist, or for teaching evolution or just for plain old identifying as a liberal and the reason I know this is becasue down south, they aren’t shy about expressing these desires. If a bit of vitriol is the price for calling a racist, sexist, xenophobic, gun-toting spade a spade, then so be it.
    The fate of the Republic is far more importnat than hurt feelings.
    And I also don’t cotton to this notion that politics should stop at the water’s edge when it comes to character. If conservatives don’t like being called xenophobes or racists, then they should stop supporting candidates that scapegoat minorites and immigrants. If they don’t like being called misogynists, then they should stop supporting candidates whom opppose reproductive rights and whom condescend to women (think aspirin between the knees as birth control or Todd “legitimate rape” Aiken).
    The Arizona Republic recently broke with a century of tradition of endorsing GOP candidates and endorsed Hillary Clinton for President . . . . and on cue the death threats come rolling in. Does anyone, no matter how overwrought HuffPo might get, really think that Democrats would pepper the editorial board of the NYT with death threats if they endorsed Trump, Romney or McCain?
    Yes, it’s disappointing to see would be leaders squabbling likke spoiled children. But life is full of disappointments. There is no Santa Claus, Geaorge Washington’s cherry tree story is made up and I’m never going to play power forward for USA Basketball in the Olympics (this one is probably less disappointing to other readers). We’ll get over it. In the meantime, I just don’t have any available RAM to dedicate to worrying about the delicate emotional state of people who talk about “good guys with guns” when the broken, bullet-riddled bodies of school children and office workers are staining the ground red.

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