It is too Soon to Declare this the “X-est” Campaign Ever

As has been noted by my fellow OTB bloggers, there has been an ongoing meme that the current campaign is one of the nastiest ever (indeed, the topic came up in a Morning Edition story today).

Let me say that it is almost impossible to access the comparative nastiness, pettiness, whateverness of a campaign whilst in the middle of it. I would note that when one watches a campaign daily (if not hourly) one is likely to be hyper-aware of the absurd minutiae of said campaign (the kind of stuff that one tends to forget over time).

First, I am honestly unconvinced by the evidence to date of how bad things are this go ’round.  Really, is the “Romney took my wife’s health insurance away” nastier than the Willie Horton ad (which suggested that Dukakis was directly responsible for a kidnapping and brutal rape). Is Seamus the Dog more petty than flip-flops, ketchup, or windsurfing were in 2004?

Second, this is a wholly subjective exercise which is made worse by being in the middle of competition.  Because most consumers of news and commentary have a rooting interest in the outcome, most then take greater umbrage at commercials and comments aimed at their preferred candidate.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Moosebreath says:

    It is the X-est campaign to date, in that Ryan is the first clearly Generation X candidate, while Obama is on the border (and acts more like an X than a Boomer).

  2. KariQ says:

    I couldn’t agree more.

    If you think this is the nastiest campaign ever, you’ve probably simply forgotten how nasty previous campaigns were. (Michelle Malkin went on tv and hypothesized that John Kerry shot himself to get his purple heart. Has anything we’ve seen this year really been worse than that?)

    Petty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but if you think this is the pettiest, you’re probably forgetting past elections again. Every campaign has loads of pettiness and silly moments, but to me nothing surpasses the H.W. Bush standing up and saying the Pledge of Allegiance defiantly as if Michael Dukakis was intent on prohibiting it. Is an off-hand remark about a dog worse than that? I don’t see how.

  3. Scott says:

    I think it is because the length and sound and fury of the campaign makes it seem like it is. I suspect most people are like my wife: they are not paying attention at all because they are too busy. Also society is so polarized that if someone bring politics into a social situation,shoulders are subtly turned and the subject is quickly changed. I just wonder if someone is currently attempting to measure the effectiveness (in terms of winning hearts and minds) of the huge amounts being spent.

  4. DMan says:

    Because most consumers of news and commentary have a rooting interest in the outcome, most then take greater umbrage at commercials and comments aimed at their preferred candidate.

    For most people complaining, it really is no more than an attempt to work the refs isn’t it? Complain they’re hitting your guy too hard and maybe the media and pundits will call foul?

  5. bill says:

    it’s early too- if they can say romney can kill women via cancer and will put blacks back in chains…..and not even distance themselves from it- how low will they go?