Sunday, January 27, 2008

An end to negative politics?

Wouldn’t it be great if the results of the Democratic primary in South Carolina, where Barak Obama won by a surprisingly large margin, signaled a new trend in American politics where negative, polarizing, attack politics are now counter-productive and almost always back-fire on the candidates that engage in them? Wouldn’t it be great if the new conventional wisdom among the political operatives and the media pundits became that the candidate who is most uniting and inspiring, who is seen to be trying to bring people together rather than pit groups against each other was the one most likely to win?

Although Hillary Clinton as president would be a vast improvement over George Bush and would be much better than any of the Republicans running, I am glad that her campaign’s decision to attack Barak Obama in the way they did in the last couple of weeks seems to have been counter-productive. Take a look at the last year of poll data in South Carolina here.

At the end of November Hillary’s support among voters peaked at 40% and has been sliding ever since. As Hillary’s support started slipping both Barak Obama’s and John Edwards’ numbers increased, so the change was not simply a move to Obama. Voters were deserting Hillary. The Clinton Campaign was obviously reacting to this trend as they went increasingly negative the last few weeks. The apparent result of their attacks was a spectacular rise in support for Barak Obama especially in the last few days where he went from about 45% in the polls a few days ago to 55% of vote yesterday.

Wouldn’t it be great if the result of the South Carolina Democratic primary was the start of a trend that resulted in the political elites coming to view a campaign strategy of trying to increase your opponent’s negatives rather than working to increase your candidate’s positives was something that no longer worked and was a losing strategy?

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