Journalists have noticed how much current political campaigns are trading on fear. As observed in a recent article in the Washington Post, “Most of the Republican presidential contenders and their allies are now waging campaigns focused on fear — bombarding voters with ominous television spots that warn of national security threats and amping up their alarming rhetoric on the stump.”
ISIS and foreign terrorism figure prominently in the bombardment. As a media tracker cited in the same article observes, such scare tactics usually don’t get relied on until late in an election campaign. (The famous “Daisy” ad that Lyndon Johnson’s campaign used to associate Barry Goldwater with nuclear war in 1964 aired only once, in September of that year.)
But in the current campaign, the GOP candidates are trying to outdo each other with the fear factor as a way of getting attention before the primaries have even started, and trying to use the scaring of people as “the fastest way to create an ad that resonates.”
There is a long history across many nations of fear-based demagoguery leading to extreme and sometimes disastrous political results. Even if that isn’t the result in this U.S. election year, even if the candidates using the scare candidates do not really believe their rhetoric, and even if any one of them, once in office, would try to take a less fearful and more measured approach to business, the rhetoric and the public fear that it stokes have consequences. They help to create a political milieu in which anyone in office will have to operate.
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