What Politicians Forgot about the 2008 Election

Barack Obama 2008 campaign poster designed by Shepard Fairey.

Whether we like it—and I’d willingly bet that we do not—political campaigning no longer has a season. Campaigning for the 2016 election has already started. Campaigning for the midterm Congressional elections launched at the end of the 2012 election—and probably before, by some measures.

Even without a television, I’ve felt inundated with political posturing. (You with televisions: How do you stand it?) And I’ve noticed: Everyone seems to have forgotten what made Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign successful:

Optimism. Hope. Unity.

Few people understood the nuances of Obama’s 2008 campaign platform. But in a dark world, with the economy in the dumps and wars dragging on in Iraq and Afghanistan, people wanted positivity. Predictably.

Today, some wars have wound down and some have just gotten started. The economy has improved, but it will take time to catch its stride—and income disparity has grown without signs of stopping.

Yet it seems political-campaign negativity has gotten worse than ever.

Although a message of rising above divisiveness and imagery of building a better America helped elect this country’s first black president—a feat many felt wouldn’t happen for years—our current politicians have forgotten the lesson of 2008 already. An article in the March 8, 2014, New York Times, for one example, mentions the fortunes poured into acrimonious campaign attack ads in Florida by national parties and outside groups seeking to test messages for the upcoming midterm elections. And an article in Motherboard points to a new trend: Fake candidate Web sites put up by opposing parties.

The politicans may win here, but the people surely lose.

I’d rather campaigns focus on what their candidates plan to achieve for our country rather than on what their opponents have and haven’t done. I’d like to look through our current woes at proposed solutions. I want to elect someone based on what he or she can do for the nation, state, county, or city—and not on how well he or she can tear down someone else.

And I think my fellow Americans feel the same way.

How can we fix it? Or can we?