Opinion » Editorial

Attack Ads Insult Voters’ Intelligence


One of the object lessons of the late political-primary season was the realization that you can dumb down political messages to the point that even the dimmest of voters is too smart to be hoodwinked.

The perfect example was the GOP gubernatorial primary, when two multi-millionaires, Diane Black and Randy Boyd, decided to blow their own money and that of their deep-pocketed donors on a negative-ad battle in which Black essentially tried to convince the Tennessee electorate that all the state needed was to trust in such national issues as she and Donald Trump favored — you know, like a wall on the Southern U.S. border and tax breaks for the wealthy — and that Boyd was a stinker because he wasn't properly zealous about such things.

Boyd — who, on his record as a cabinet member in the Haslam adminstration, was actually a moderate, thoughtful social engineer of sorts — countered with ads suggesting that he was as far to the right as Black was and that he worried himself sick about welfare chiselers and sneaky immigrants. And he did, too, favor the wall and had actually gone to the border to pose for pictures there. He insisted that he loved Trump as much as Black did. Back and forth, they went, tearing each other down.

Meanwhile, Bill Lee, an almost overlooked third-place candidate for much of the way, kept gaining, mainly on the basis of a pleasant personality and a reluctance to play the dozens with the other two. He won the primary.

Tennessee is now getting a partial rerun of the embarrassing Black-Boyd antics in the race for the U.S. Senate between Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Phil Bredesen. The mischief here has been pretty much one-sided. Blackburn and the National Republican Senate committee — and whoever else has been thinking this stuff up — have been laboring hard to make Bredesen — a middle-of-the-roader who was so conservative as governor that he made his GOP predecessor Don Sundquist look like a Democrat — appear to be a crazed tax-and-spend liberal.

One Blackburn ad has Trump himself saying such things about Bredesen, who has promised, reasonably enough, to support such actions by the president as might seem good for Tennessee. Another ad states that Bredesen wildly hiked up state taxes (actually, no, he really didn't) and, worse, enjoyed himself at taxpayers' expense by gussying up the governor's mansion, which, as Bredesen notes correctly, he never even lived in as governor.

If Bredesen has wisely chosen, for the most part, not to reciprocate, the Democratic National Committee seems to have fallen into the trap of responding to Blackburn's bait with its own ad claiming that she's the one who's really been fleecing the taxpayers by excessive globe-trotting and constantly gadding about on the public dime.

Stop it, everybody. You're trivializing the democratic process, turning it into a preposterous flame war. Stick to the issues, please. There are real ones, after all, and, honestly, we can tell the difference between the stuff some of you are doing and shinola.

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