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We Need Negative Campaigning

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

When you’re running against a political monopoly, you must engage in relentless and effective negative campaigning to drive behavioral change, or you’ll simply get crushed by their machine. The status quo always wins in 1/1 promotion. In fact, the status quo usually wins in all positive promotional contests, even when you significantly outdo them.

We must give voters a reason to cast off the status quo

Negative Campaigning is a very general term that spans a wide spectrum of different types of messages and activities, with the overall purpose of generating a negative response from the recipient to cause a certain action. I’ll walk through some of the popular types of negative campaigns and why/how they should or should not be used. But first, let’s get further into why we need it.

If you put vanilla and chocolate ice cream against each other, they will typically be chosen about equally among participants. This quickly changes when there is a driver that pushes one in favor of the other, such as access to one flavor over another or a bad experience associated with one.

Allegorically, liberals are vanilla. As we well know, they have a monopoly. Their ice cream stands are everywhere. They are the status quo – and they’re yelling from the rooftops that “chocolate makes you fat.” (That’s a Callout. Subjective in this example, but highly effective). In this scenario, without its own negative campaign, chocolate has no chance.

We’re chocolate. I don’t need to explain why we’re better than vanilla and its rusty, E. coli-ridden ice cream stands. Regardless, people will keep eating vanilla because it’s their routine, it’s convenient, it’s comforting. So while we build our own stands and promote chocolate, we must also shout from our rooftops, “Don’t be boring, eat chocolate” and “You deserve more than vanilla, enjoy some chocolate.” (Two effective examples of Comparisons – How many of you are reaching for chocolate right now???) Negative campaigning works. It drives behavior. That’s the bottom line.

Mudslinging is what a lot of people think of when you say “negative campaigning.” Mudslinging is centered on personal attacks, rumors, and innuendo. It’s not very effective and runs a real risk of hurting the one sending the message. Mud fights just leave everyone caked in mud. It’s a sign of desperation. I don’t recommend that anyone engage in them. Let’s see if Josh Green keeps throwing mud as he sees his numbers falling. That’ll be a good sign for us.

Comparisons can be really effective. This is when either candidates or issues are compared to one another, deliberately contrasting the value of one over the other. Candidates typically gain a lot of traction with comparison pieces, as do parties and PACs. They’re also pretty safe, as long as you’re highlighting the right elements. The problem with comparisons is that they take a big investment from recipients. They’re really only effective if the recipient will take the time to engage and think it through. But if you can find the right message and get it to the right audience, it tends to have a lasting effect. No one will soon forget the comparison they’ve seen from us contrasting Duke Aiona’s respect for Hawaii and its people with his out of touch liberal opponent, Josh Green.

Callouts are one of the most effective negative campaigns – when done right. Candidates can call out their opponents if the issue and moment is right, but these are usually most effective when coming from a party or a PAC. This could be a bad bill that an opponent sponsored, this could be something an opponent said or did. For instance, we’ve done several pieces on Josh Green disrespecting the people of Hawaiʻi in the most ridiculous ways. These are callouts. And they were extremely effective. They presented Josh Green’s attitudes and character as a leader – while staying away from personal mudslinging that would have backfired. They were based on specific things that Josh Green said and did, queued up for the recipient.

Public Announcements are very similar to callouts, but with one key difference: They’re based on public information produced by a third party on the topic. They’re usually most effective when shared by a PAC. Sharon Har and Matt LoPresti both had recent DUIs, for instance. There are a lot of solid facts: Arrest videos, news coverage, etc. But most voters either never saw these or have forgotten who they were about. We were here to remind them! The response was extreme and immediate. We can’t share all of the data we gleaned, but as one voter who planned to cast their ballot for Sharon Har put it when asked if they would still vote for her, “Hell no.” We’ve probably all been touched by the horrors of drunk driving. It’s an important issue for the public to be aware of. Another response we received from voters was simply, “Thank you for sharing this.” Public Announcements work if they’re fair and timely.

Are there more types of negative campaigning than I listed? Absolutely. These are just a few of the most common. By the way, this article is itself a negative campaign, targeting corrupt Governor candidate Josh Green and his power hungry liberal cohort. I call it Exampling and it’s probably my favorite. Exampling is when you make your point using your opponent as the example of what’s wrong.

I hope you’ll use everything from this article to establish a competitive edge and generate change – but don’t rush it. Take your time and get it right. I recommend testing each campaign before sending it out to the full audience – and never forget the audience. It’s all about the audience.

Finally, keep it truthful. There is so much content available, you don’t need to make things up. You just need to find the right thing to talk about, and the right approach to get it out there. Effect negative campaigning is about messaging, it’s not about fabricating. You can fact check any negative campaign we’re running and you’ll see that each is grounded in truth, unlike Josh Green’s lies and innuendo against his political opponents. Be better than Josh Green.

We will win because we do what is right, in the right way.

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