By John Stark
Former Seattle Times reporter Bill Dietrich revisits the uproar over the Seattle Times’ decision to give free ad space to Rob McKenna, and uses that episode to make some observations about the seeming ineffectiveness of hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending.
If Dietrich is right, and voters are becoming increasingly immune to the caricatures, half-truths and empty patriotic symbolism of political advertising, that is good news for everybody. If he is right (and I’m not yet ready to declare that he is) then we can all stop worrying about Citizens United and amending the Constitution and all that.
Maybe people are smarter than we thought. Maybe it was always elitism to argue that somebody other than me and my followers would be weak-minded enough to base political decisions on television advertising.
Maybe we’re at the point where political advertising is like advertising for beer and soft drinks. Coke, Pepsi, Bud and Miller spend millions just to maintain market share.
Maybe we’re at the point where people realize that candidates for public office are not beer and soft drinks. They are more like cars. Advertising can get your attention, to be sure. But a car or a political candidate should not be an impulse purchase.
Footnote: Bill Dietrich is a Fairhaven College graduate who started his journalism career at The Bellingham Herald, and provided this newspaper with legislative coverage through Gannett News Service in the 1980s.