Mark Arbib knows a lot about what he likes to call “scare campaigns”. As NSW ALP state secretary he revealed a special talent for negativity with his personal attacks on former NSW Liberal leader Peter Debnam.
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So maybe it was his guilty conscience talking in The Punch when he accused the federal Coalition of unleashing what he calls the “politics of fear and loathing” on the Rudd Government’s $315 billion debt.
Then again, maybe he was just spinning the standard line our opponents roll out every time the Coalition highlights one of Labor’s shortcomings.
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The late Lee Atwater is a legend in the US Republican Party. Hailing from South Carolina he successfully rewrote the book on American election campaigning. Atwater ran scare campaigns and he was good at it. He made a name for himself in the early 1980’s with his aggressive campaign tactics including push polling and dog whistling on racial issues in the South.
Atwater won election after election running scare campaigns on any issue he could find. He ran scare campaigns on religion; he ran scare campaigns on race; he once even ran a scare campaign claiming his opponent was unfit for office because he had suffered from depression as a teenager.
Lee Atwater understood people and, more importantly, he understood the power of emotion over rational thought. He used to say that people vote their fears over their hopes and that fact shaped his campaigning.
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