Vote (for us) or die

Scare tactics are poisoning political discourse in media.

With polls showing Democrats poised to gain the majority in at least one and possibly both houses of Congress this November, desperation is in the air for the Republicans and desecration is on the airwaves. In lieu of capturing Osama bin Laden, the Republican National Committee has found a new use for him: campaigning. In an advertisement called “The Stakes,” which began running on cable stations Sunday, images of bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, and threats they have made over the last five years are shown with the sound of a ticking bomb played through the ad. It ends saying, “These are the stakes. Vote Nov. 7.”

The purpose is to tell voters that if you don’t vote for our party, the terrorists will attack! Not only is this a ham-handed mockery of the reason and common sense we deserve in our discourse; it probably won’t even work. Scare rhetoric has been used so endlessly over the last few years that it barely seems to faze us anymore. It was used to drum up support for the invasion of Iraq, the Constitution-shredding of the Patriot Act and most recently, the detainee bill that allows torture. Even the Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded alert system is more like a Lite-Brite of fear, serving little practical purpose other than scaring the populace.

Conspicuously absent from the advertisement are any reference to quantifiable threats like North Korea, which now possesses a nuclear bomb, or the National Intelligence Estimate that found the Iraq invasion worsened the terror threat. We know who shoulders the blame there.

These tactics aren’t new. More than 30 years after it was broadcast, most people can recognize Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 “Daisy” advertisement, in which a young girl plucking petals off a daisy hears a countdown to a nuclear blast. Johnson rode the advertisement’s message to the then-biggest trouncing in presidential history by successfully insinuating that a vote for Barry Goldwater was a vote for nuclear war. This advertisement, though, will only succeed in proving that politicians haven’t grown up a bit since then. The American people deserve better.