Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


Military and Veterans Discount


Free AARP E-Books

Protecting Yourself Online for Dummies

Here's the mini guide you need to steer through the hazards with confidence.

Learn More


AARP Games - Play Now!


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy

News & Politics Forums

Share your opinions on news and current events that matter most to you.

Join the discussion »

AARP Auto Buying Program



Campaign Civility IS Possible

Show the candidates you're fed up with negative politics

So why do we believe that civility and etiquette are still possible? We know that negative ads work. But we also know the reason they work is that they're almost always ignored by the subject of the attack for fear of giving the attacks more publicity. (Remember John Kerry's decision to ignore the 2004 Swift Boat ads?)

There is also evidence, however, that if the candidate under attack challenges the accuracy of the ads head-on, proves it and keeps at it, the candidate continuing to go negative will pay a high, even fatal, political price.

That happened in 2005 in the Virginia gubernatorial campaign between Democratic Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine and Republican former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.

After Kilgore's daily attack ads, Kaine replied with ads making Kilgore's negativity the major campaign issue. The result: Editorials and news articles appeared highlighting Kilgore's negativity. The tide turned. Kaine overcame a substantial deficit in the polls and easily won the contest. It's an important lesson. Kilgore's negative ads backfired.

That lesson in Virginia can be a national model in 2012.

Older Americans, more than most, take their elections seriously and are fed up with the negativity. All of us — young, middle-aged and older — can demand that Obama and Romney stop the food fight. We can demand that, instead, they debate the issues. Give us specific ideas and specific solutions for America's most pressing problems — big solutions for the economy, for health care, for reducing our $15 trillion national debt, for ensuring the long-term solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

Sooner rather than later, the candidates will have to listen and respond. Then our headline will turn out to be true: There will be a rebirth of civility and etiquette in American politics.

Lanny Davis was special counsel to President Bill Clinton. Michael Steele was Republican National Committee chairman. They are partners in a new public affairs/strategic communications firm in Washington, D.C., Purple Nation Solutions.

You may also like: Presidential slogans from bold to bland.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

member benefit aarp financial service auto insurance

AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford offers members no-cost quotes.

membership benefit financial college aarp

Advice on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points