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November 8, 2012

Voters share blame for negative campaigns

America’s Great Electoral Marathon of 2012 ended with the venerated vox populi — the voice of the people — reverberating louder and clearer than ever: “Please lie to me!”

Candidates discovered this year that they’d pay no penalty for campaign lies, distortions and deceptions. Because that’s what people want to hear — as long as it’s about politicians we love to hate. Too many of us prefer to get what we call news from blogs, tweets and cable news channels that pander to partisans to get ratings.

Campaign 2012 just set a new record for campaign ad negativity. Lies abound. Distortion is the norm; deception an art form. Accuracy is as rare as a found artifact. According to a Wesleyan Media Project study, 86 percent of President Barack Obama’s ads and 79 percent of Mitt Romney’s ads were negative. (That’s a big increase from 2008, when Obama and John McCain spent 69 percent of their ad budgets on negative ads, and 2004, when George W. Bush and John Kerry spent 58 percent on negative ads.)

So there are multiple lessons we must learn about the shortcomings and failures of all the players: the politicos, the journalists who cover them, and the people (see also: voters) who encourage and even implore candidates to do what we used to deplore.

First, let’s review the lowlights of the campaign’s biggest whoppers, distortions and deceptions.

Especially, the Republican demonization of “Obamacare”: This carefully conceived deceit began when conservative schemers successfully conned frustrated and easily manipulated folks who flocked to tea party rallies by denouncing as liberal the mandate that all must buy health insurance.

But the media glossed over this truth: The health care mandate was an idea incubated in the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in the Clinton years as a Republican alternative to the liberal’s desire for a single-payer government program. Conservative Republicans embraced it. Romney used it for his Massachusetts health plan.

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