So do political parties in multi-party systems use attack ads? This is another post in the series based on a Facebook conversation with my neighbor M that started here.
M: Yes, the structure of the system has some important impacts. But does it also result in better people in office? Is it that attack adds don’t work as well with multiple competing parties? Is it that personal attacks specifically become less common when you’re voting more for a party than a specific person? Is this the actual experience in the Netherlands?
People are the same everywhere and it’s human nature that politicians will do whatever they can get away with in their own (party) interests. But if there are 20 other parties, who are you going to attack? How do you choose? Because you don’t have the time or money to attack them all. Dutch political parties can’t even afford much more than the five subsidized minutes about once a month all year on public television and a whole lot of smallish posters during the election season. They can’t afford to waste those opportunities on badmouthing one another.
The debates, which in my time in the Netherlands were usually between the top 3 or 4 parties, allowed those few parties to argue about the issues, and I wouldn’t doubt that politicians who are interviewed will give the occasional stab, but mostly they use those opportunities to promote their platform.
Of course politicians have rows, with one another and with their members, throughout the four years they’re at work, but often the problems are more that the members want their party leader to grow a pair and show more leadership, or that they feel the representatives are straying too far from the party’s platform. That the politicians of the labor party often don’t agree with the ideas of the conservative party is obvious, and therefore it goes without saying.
The thing with so many parties is that each party is looking for like-minded voters. They don’t want or need everyone’s vote and they don’t try. Imagine you’re a moderate Republican in a multi-party system. You wouldn’t want the Tea Party votes, would you? So why spend money on attack ads aimed at the Tea Party leader? Let them have their own party and the representation they deserve.
This is the last post in this series.