Slamming the door on political ads

Looking at the political ads now infesting the airwaves reminds me of a disastrous dinner party populated with ill-mannered out-of-town guests.

“The meat’s overcooked,” intones the rotund Midwesterner. The beautifully coiffed lady from New York sniffs, “How could you possible serve Brussels sprout? You know I don’t like them.” While the hard-charging venture capitalist from Silicon Valley chimes in: “I don’t like chocolate mousse. I prefer a soufflé of baby kale.”

If you’re like me, you’d be tempted to ask the whole lot to leave the house, slam (and lock) the door, and settle back with a strong drink in hand.

But that’s what we’re getting from the torrent of out-of-state funded television ads now clogging the airwaves.

One drew a splendidly snarky warning last weekend from the Michigan Truth Squad, a fact-checking service from the Center for Michigan. The ad, “Say Yes to the Candidate”, sponsored by the College Republican National Committee, tries to follow the premise of ‘Say Yes to the Dress’, a TLC reality show about women choosing a wedding gown.

The Truth Squad post begins, “A young woman identified only as Brittany glows when she stands before friends in ‘the Rick Snyder’, a fitted, strapless gown, with a sparkly belt at the empire waist. … Brittany beams under her multicultural friends’ approval, but as frequently happens on the show, there’s a fly in the ointment: Brittany’s sour-faced mother, who proclaims, ‘I like Mark Schauer. It’s overpriced and a little outdated, but I know best.”

“We’re calling this one a warning because we don’t have a category for ‘silly’”, concludes the post.

What’s interesting about this ad is there are nearly identical spots running in behalf of GOP gubernatorial candidates in Florida, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Colorado and Arkansas. Not content with inflicting a very silly ad on countless Michigan voters, the college Republicans apparently are insisting on pulling the same stunt – called “clever” by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus – all around the country.

It’s a perfect example of why the infestation of out-of-state political ads is so irritating and (I hope) hurtful to the candidate they’re supposed to support. Gov. Rich Snyder, no doubt embarrassed by the ad which ran without his say so, was quoted in the Macomb Daily calling it “dumb and offensive”.

When I talked a while ago with both Republican and Democratic state party chairs about the avalanche of out-of-state ads, both complained that national party poo-bahs and assorted bored billionaires were messing with their attempt to make their campaigns locally relevant to Michigan voters. That was before the “Say Yes to the Candidate” ad ran, so I figure they knew even back then what they were talking about.

Sadly, there’s more, much more, of this stuff coming. Rich Robinson at the Michigan Campaign Finance Networik, an outfit that tracks political spending, says to date both parties have spent nearly $50 million between them on advertising for both races for U.S. Senate and governor. And there are millions more in the pipeline.

It’s easy (and fun) to criticize the tidal wave of partisan advertising. But, sad to say, it seems to work.

As Robinson said last week, instead of the campaigns being contests between differing political agendas and personalities of the candidates, they’ve degenerated into “my billionaire can whup your billionaire.”

Absentee ballots arrived at my house over the weekend. I’m going to vote just as soon as I finish writing this so I can hit the “mute” button on the TV remote.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 10/07/2014 - 7:30am
The mute button on my TV remote is getting a heavy workout, its so bad I think a vacation from TV altogether for the next month wouldn't be a bad thing at all.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 9:42am
The extremely high political spending levels tell a lot about the need for higher taxes. A lot of this money could do a lot of good for those in need.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:11am
I agree with Dave
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 9:51am
I go one step past mute - I change channels.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:47am
One problem with changing channels is that there is sometimes another (or even the same) political commercial running on another station. Its crazy.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 9:53am
I mute every single political ad whether it's my candidate or an opposing one. These political promotions have gotten so out of hand that they can simply be referred to as ludicrous! We desperately need an educated voting populace in this country. As a retired teacher, I lament the fact that our schools seem to be in such disarray when it comes to teaching civics. Oh wait! We don't teach that any more. A non-partisan approach to that subject is certainly possible to set in our schools' curriculum. A quick course in how to identify major propaganda tools might be highly useful too. But even with this, if we can't stop money from talking, democracy will go mute! We all need to be responsible for maintaining democracy as a form of government in this land.
Charles Richards
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 6:21pm
Carolyn is stone cold correct when she says, "We desperately need an educated voting populace in this country." The lack of that educated voting populace is what is responsible for the flood of appalling political ads. Those ads are an indictment of those voters who lack the skill and inclination to think things through. We have descended into tribalism where we demonize those who disagree with us rather than using rationality, logic and evidence to make our case. Shouting, much as chimpanzees bark to establish dominance, has become a substitute for thought. We concentrate our energies on vilifying and tearing down others rather than trying to work out what is best for the community.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:18am
How do we "put the genie back in the lamp" or "close Pandora's box" or whatever is the correct analogy? Once the floodgates are opened for big money to manipulate the political process, how do we use that same political process to correct the problem?
Duane (differen...
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 3:02pm
Duane, Why try to put the money back in the box? Use the same rules, but change the game. People hear what they are listening for so when they start listening for something else then the current style of campaigning will fail. What do you listen for?
Randi Richardson
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 11:27am
So much for 'Fair and Balanced' reporting...focusing on the College Republicans...what about the myriad of blather from the Democratic Senate folks trashing a truly viable candidate of proven abilities (Sec of State). Shame on you Mr about earning that award!
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 12:10pm
Bridge is turning into a liberal rag for the dems. Look at any 2 pictures they post - one a smiling face and the other a scowling face and guess which party always gets the smiling face. Even the headlines are tilted toward the libs. It's always "Snyder is wrong …." when it's against a repub ad, but when they do a story about a dem ad, it's "Anti-Snyder ……", always putting the repubs in the bad limelight. Count the columnists, and figure their party.
Mike R
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 8:20pm
Randi and Rich are precisely the voters at whom these miserable ads are directed: one-dimensional loyalists who refuse to listen to, watch, or think about anything critical of their party. People like them will find fault with anything that isn't gushing, phony praise of their own candidate or scathing, criminally false accusations against the opponent. Do either of you consider the possibility that, just maybe, the inaccurate, misleading, or false Republican ads are more numerous or worse than the Democratic ads of the same ilk (of which there clearly are many)? Instead of attacking Bridge for bias (it's as close to unbiased as you will find anywhere), you may want to make a rudimentary attempt at objective analysis.
Wed, 10/08/2014 - 8:12am
Amen to Mike R.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 12:22pm
I go one step further than muting the sound on my TV...I stop watching local channels at all for at least a month prior to an election. I wonder if local channel owners have found that their viewers drop during that time period?
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 4:31pm
I doubt they care if we're watching. The TV channels are the ones making a bundle of money from the ads.
Roberta Wray
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 2:13pm
I think it would be wonderful if only people who live within a state could contribute to political candidates in that state. Out of state billionaires have no business meddling in our elections...and out of state PACs, too. Meanwhile, political ads proliferate in cable networks as well as local broadcast outlets. I'm sick of having to watch them during football, tennis, golf and everything else. My mute button is getting a heavy workout, too.
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 2:20pm
TV has a mute button, what to do about the mountain of junk flooding mailbox. Ads on TV are bad, print ads are even worse. For the money being spent, makes you wonder who on earth they're hiring ... not talent or skill in marketing/advertising that's for sure. It's definitely gone from bad to worse. Candidates should be embarrassed & those creating the trash should be ashamed.
Duane (differen...
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 2:52pm
It appears Mr. Power has created a box when he thinks about political campaigns. He seems to only see the amount of money being spent and concerned with who is spending it. This box seems to define not only his thinking, but it seems to create barriers to his asking questions. I wonder why he hasn’t asked why these ads? why he hasn’t been interested in what the voters might want to hear about? why the people with the money pay for these ads, that have little impact? what could be an alternative to current ads? There are so many questions to ask and yet Mr. Power never seems to ask any question that may break on a wall down in that box of his. Many readers have said they simply tune out the ads. I am even worse, I very rarely read the ‘Truth Squad’ comments since they seem to be play by the rules the ad producers have made. It must be comfortable in that box, there are so many ways to help voters be better informed. I think it would be much more helpful for the ‘Truth Squad’ or a writer to develop a description of the roles and responsibilities for each office, readers could use it to assess candidates. Another thing that could be done is ask readers what criteria they would like to use (if they could get the relevant information) to judge candidates. I would like to hear how a legislative candidate decides to vote, is it on party loyalty, is it on input from constituents, is on personal principles? If it is the latter then I would be interested in the principles they use. If there is no crackers and cheese where is the entertainment, another campaign ad we can laugh at? Better yet, what would other readers like to hear about from the candidates? I will start if off: - accountability of programs and agencies, how would the candidates make that happen?
Chuck Fellows
Tue, 10/07/2014 - 5:34pm
Reach for several good books!
Sue Martens
Wed, 10/08/2014 - 3:23pm
$50 million? Wow. What would impress me is if they took that $50 million and applied it to programs for feeding people, providing home heating assistance, and job training. Heck, I'd even welcome a statement from a candidate saying he/she supported this use of what used to be spent on media advertising.
Sue Martens
Wed, 10/08/2014 - 3:26pm
$50 million? Wow. What would impress me is if they took that $50 million and applied it to programs for feeding people, providing home heating assistance, and job training. Heck, I'd even welcome a statement from a candidate saying he/she supported this use of money that used to be spent on media advertising.
Stephen Cain
Wed, 10/08/2014 - 6:10pm
Annoying and silly tells only part of the story. I just wish the Truth Squad had a greater impact because the patently false ads go on and on as do the slyly deceptive half-truth ads. I have not seen one single attack ad that I could not take apart based only on modest information.
Thu, 10/09/2014 - 6:39pm
The first amendment applies here. In all facets.
Sun, 10/12/2014 - 9:55am
Many of the ads I encounter are so transparently absurd that only the hopelessly gullible would believe them. What I do find illuminating is that reality does sometimes impinge on myth and then one gets a reaction. For example, people in Rochester Hills are suddenly finding out that some elected officials have sold out to the fracking/oil interests and as a result, their neighborhoods will not be places where people would want to live.
Mon, 10/13/2014 - 7:44am
Hey folks, All the political money spent is improving the economy isn't it? Millions of dollars to newspapers, tv and radio as well as to the US Postal Service. And Phil Power has a job. Personally, I love getting junk mail from candidates I abhor. It means they are spending money to no avail. I am sad for the trees, though. Look at the bright side and ignore the insanity. Turn off the tv and radio. Read only the news articles in the paper and recycle the junk mail. Deliberately investigate each candidate for his/her record and views and vote intelligently. Unfortunately too many voters listen to the idiocy and refuse to act in the best interest of the community. It is our responsibility to be informed. Too bad we act like cattle headed for the barn.
Mon, 10/13/2014 - 7:54am
And yes, I do believe the money could be much better used to alleviate the problems in society or build a new facility that employs people at a decent wage, donated to charity for that matter. It is amazing how much is spent to influence legislation and politicos to reduce taxes and create loopholes in taxes and regulations that benefit only a few.
Tue, 10/28/2014 - 7:30pm
I tend to disagree with the bored millionaire description from Soros to Adelson, their egos believe they are smarter than the average bear. The MSM is in my ju [tv, radio and newspapers] enjoys creating a final four frenzy leading to the presidentirial conventions using the bi-year elections to set the "brackets" and more important to keep the big bucks flowing into their coffers. With the biased talking heads cheerleading on the side lines the mute button is the alternative, also used for football games, golf, basketball and baseball annoucers !