Friday, January 6, 2012

Stop the Ad-Madness

Remember bell-bottoms?

I grew up in the seventies, and I remember how it seemed that everyone wore goofy pants with flared cuffs that appeared tailor-made for showing off those stylish platform shoes that were also popular back then. Just to be clear: I don't mean a little bit of flair, like you might see today. I'm talking about street-sweeping size-flair. Charlie's Angels-cast-off flair! The 70s, at least in terms of fashion, were a dark time for America. Sometime around the 1980s, though, the bell-bottom fad faded away.

Sure, some folks still wore 'em. Some folks still do - and God bless those brave retro-fashion souls. Yet most people have decided that bell-bottoms look kind of silly. And the companies that once produced wildly flared jeans have since learned to adjust their styles or go out of business. It didn't take a grand campaign to rid the world of 1970s-era bell-bottoms. It simply took a choice to look in the mirror and say, "I'm not going to do this anymore."

So if we could collectively opt out of the bell-bottom craze, abandoning it to the land of disco music and pet rocks, why can't we tell the politicians that their annoying, insulting, and manipulative campaign ads, radio spots, and robo-calls are out of step with the times? Why don't we demand a change of political fashion?

Given that we're in the middle of a presidential race now, it's possibly unreasonable to expect such a transformation in this year. But in 2016 I intend to support a presidential candidate who pledges not to run a single campaign ad. Not one ad. No television attacks, no radio pitches, no telephone intrusions. 

[NOTE: Such a pledge will also require the candidate to firmly disavow any ads run by third-parties - on a daily basis, if need be. I should add that this proposal applies only to the post-primary presidential race. I haven't a clue about how to clean up the primary process.]

When it comes to the final two or three candidates in the presidential race, I will only support one who promises to limit her or his campaign communications to a handful of messages: perhaps a website, a newspaper editorial, a YouTube video, and maybe a book.

Taking a page from Newt Gingrich, my ideal candidate will also pledge to compete in a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates. These unmoderated debates, organized by the campaigns themselves, would allow candidates to state their policies, plans, and goals without interruption - taking turns to explain their cases, refute their opponents, bolster their claims, and summarize their arguments.

The debates, potentially lasting three hours or more, would be held in various locations around the country, thereby inviting candidates to demonstrate their grasp on regional issues. Each debate would surely receive full coverage by even the most stridently partisan news networks. Together, these debates, in addition to the other messages shared by candidates, would help Americans make a reasoned choice about our next president.

Well, that's my plan. It requires no government mandate, no unconstitutional restrictions, no complex rule-changes. It's a personal choice, the decision to say, "If you want my support, you'll stop the ad-madness and communicate clearly about what you intend to do for our country." It's an individual decision to abandon bad political fashion, one vote at a time.

Think about it. We stopped wearing bell-bottoms, we stopped wearing leisure suits, and we stopped wearing mood rings. I know we can stop the ad-madness too.

I'll explore some ideas to implement this proposal in the near future.

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