Toon & text by John Auchter
In our early years as a couple, my wife and I used to make a yearly visit to Pennsylvania to visit relatives — grandparents, great aunts and uncles. On one such visit in the fall of 1988, a post-dinner conversation turned to politics. Among the Sanka and Jell-O 3-2-1, opinions were expressed about the presidential candidates.
One of my aunts said, “I don’t like that Michael Ducarcass.” (His name, of course, is “Dukakis” but in a combination of her Pennsylvania Dutch accent and unfamiliarity with Greek names, it came out “Do-carcass.”) Why I asked. “Because I don’t trust him after he dumped all that garbage into Boston Harbor.”
That may sound like a non-sequitur now, but back then there was a TV attack ad very heavily implying that Michael Dukakis had, as Governor of Massachusetts, personally poured massive amounts of trash into Boston Harbor. It seemed kind of laughable. But it worked. And since that day, “That Michael Ducarcass” has been shorthand in our family for “This attack ad is riddled with lies, but it’s probably gonna be effective.”
Tis the season for negative ads. Well, in truth they are never quite out of season. But late October, they are ubiquitous (the pumpkin-spice of advertisement flavors). And I’m fine with one candidate calling out another candidate’s shortcomings. (Especially if the funding source of the ad is transparent.) But when the negative get weaponized with lies and turns into an attack, that’s we should focus more on what we need, not what we fear.