Could Abraham Lincoln win re-election in 1864 if today's technology and methods were available to his opponent? That's the question posed by FlackCheck.org, which produced more than two dozen very funny ads poking fun at the extreme language used in political advertisements. The ads attack Lincoln's character, criticize his ties to special interests, and slam the 16th President for his war on religion. To get a taste, check out FlackCheck's video, "Lincoln, a Tax and Spend Socialist".
The anti-Lincoln ads from Flackcheck are important, because they demonstrate in an entertaining way how "tough" attack ads often feed on the fears of the electorate, oversimplify complex issues, and ultimately do very little to help voters make good decisions in the voting booth. That should be particularly concerning for progressives, who are being out-raised and outspent by Romney and pro-Romney Super PACs.
The main pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, raised more than $8 million last month, bringing its total raised to more than $64 million. In comparison, the main pro-Obama Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, raised just $4 million in May. The Washington Post has a useful campaign ad tracker, which aggregates information on TV ad buys by Political Action Committees and presidential campaigns. 63% of all advertisements this election season have been negative. Restore Our Future has spent $23.2 million on TV ads nationwide, and Priorities USA Action has spent just $4.9 million. American Crossroads/ Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove's Super PAC, also out-raised Priorities USA Action. It has spent more than $28.6 million on TV ads.
While the precise impact of this political season's advertisements on voter decisions may not be understood until after the November election, the coming deluge is going to be unlike anything many voters have experienced before. The political landscape has changed.
At least it will be interesting. Do you think Lincoln could be re-elected with today's technology?