By Bekah Paxton, Staff Writer
On Monday, politics and culture periodical The Week released a video highlighting how men and women running for election this past Tuesday attempted to distance themselves ideologically from the President. Surprisingly, these criticisms of Obama come from a variety of candidates on both sides of the aisle and in a plethora of campaign levels, ranging from federal to local elections.
The video shows how frequently candidates attempt to contrast their policies from the president, resulting in a different kind of election trend. Normally, negatively focused attack ads are aimed at the major opposition to any one candidate, creating a highly chaotic and impassioned political atmosphere around the time of elections.
Now it seems that attack ads are generally focused on the candidate versus the president, not candidate versus another candidate. This may alleviate criticisms that election politics have become too emotional and less objective or factual, as candidates in these advertisements are not making outrageous and often untrue claims about other candidates. However, these candidates are criticizing the current outside administration of the president.
The question remains: why does this trend occur? Why this bipartisan attack on the president? The answer may come from a mix of public sentiment and the nature of the American institution of the presidency.
It seems that the end of a president’s term generally comes with lower public approval ratings and less public support. Stated frankly, I think people just get tired of the same rhetoric and policies.
The end of a second term is understandably a difficult time for a president. He (or she) can’t feasibly try to implement a major new program or policy without cramming a huge unrefined bill into Congress, but he or she will continue to try to leave his or her legacy by grabbing at straws and making some minor policy adjustments.
As a result, the public usually grows impatient and discontented with meaningless bills and policies that don’t attempt to tackle what they consider pressing issues. Considering we are now in the fourth quarter of Obama’s presidency, it makes sense that the public is getting restless and is more apparently unsatisfied with the president’s performance in office.
Personally, I think President Obama is a charismatic speaker with well-developed, progressive ideas for the nation. Unfortunately in the recent past, he has proven to be a somewhat ineffectual leader especially in dealing with foreign affairs concerning the Benghazi attacks, the Russia-Ukraine crisis and in responding to the rise in prominence of ISIS. It seems that he has lost a lot of sincere trust of some of his original supporters because a discrepancy between his perceived strength during his election campaigns and his actual presidential record.
As implied by the negative campaign ads and The Week’s summary of them, President Obama has become the whipping boy for what not to be in American politics.
Strategically, it’s better for even a Democratic candidate to separate his or her ideas from the policies of the president in order to gain more widespread support and legitimacy. At this point in Obama’s administration, it’s harmful for Democrats and independent candidates to associate their politics with the president and agree on many of the issues Obama has confronted in the past. On the other hand, it is important for Republican candidates to portray themselves as more moderate, distancing themselves also from President Obama and therefore attempting to align themselves with similar Democrat sentiments. Essentially, politics is all about bring people in, and campaign ads are a prime example of the attempt to garner public support in this way.
Obviously any candidate wants to win over the opposing major party candidate, but in this most recent election, it seems Obama was the man to beat.