Thomas Sowell

One of the oldest phenomena of American elections-- criticism of one's opponent-- has in recent times been stigmatized by much of the media as "negative advertising."

Is this because the criticism has gotten more vicious or more personal? You might think so, if you were totally ignorant of history, as so many of the graduates of even our elite universities are.

Although Grover Cleveland was elected President twice, he had to overcome a major scandal that he had fathered a child out of wedlock, which was considered more of a disgrace then than today. Even giants like Lincoln and Jefferson were called names that neither McCain nor Obama has been called.

Why then is "negative advertising" such a big deal these days? The dirty little secret is this: Liberal candidates have needed to escape their past and pretend that they are not liberals, because so many voters have had it with liberals.

In 1988, Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts called himself a "technocrat," a pragmatic solver of problems, despite a classic liberal track record of big spending, big taxes, and policies that were anti-business and pro-criminal.

When the truth about what he actually did as governor was brought out during the Presidential election campaign, the media were duly shocked-- not by Dukakis' record, but by the Republicans' exposing his record.

John Kerry, with a very similar ultra-liberal record, topped off by inflammatory and unsubstantiated attacks on American military men in Vietnam, disdained the whole process of labeling as something unworthy. And the mainstream media closed ranks around him as well, deploring those who labeled Kerry a liberal.

Barack Obama is much smoother. Instead of issuing explicit denials, he gives speeches that sound so moderate, so nuanced and so lofty that even some conservative Republicans go for them. How could anyone believe that such a man is the very opposite of what he claims to be-- unless they check out the record of what he has actually done?

In words, Obama is a uniter instead of a divider. In deeds, he has spent years promoting polarization. That is what a "community organizer" does, creating a sense of grievance, envy and resentment, in order to mobilize political action to get more of the taxpayers' money or to force banks to lend to people they don't consider good risks, as the community organizing group ACORN did.

After Barack Obama moved beyond the role of a community organizer, he promoted the same polarization in his other roles.


Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate

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