I am not an American citizen. In fact, I have only been in this country for a little over a year. Despite being nonpartisan and having no stake in the outcome of the upcoming election, I am worried by the kind of tools both campaigns have been using to spread their message across to voters.
Now more than ever, Americans are hungry for a truly great leader, one that stands in the face of adversity and inspires people to think beyond themselves and work towards a better future for all. However, the current presidential race more closely resembles a high-school popularity contest rather than a race to lead a great nation.
So far, more than $800 million has been spent on political advertisements by both sides and their respective super PAC's. The majority of this amount has been used to market negative advertisements.
Voters are well aware that they have a lot at stake in this election, but for the most part remain unmoved by most ads from both parties.
Instead of stepping up, assuming a role of leadership and looking out for the greater good for the American people, both campaigns have focused on showcasing negative sentiments towards their counterparts. Effectively, this has resulted in an even more divided America, and although neither party has intended this, it is an inevitable consequence of the constant battle that has only become worse during the race.
As humans, we are predisposed to understand people's messages in a certain way. Our Homo sapien brain (neocortex), is responsible for comprehending rationality, analytics and language. Our limbic brains are responsible for our feelings and behaviors. In essence, when campaigns focus the majority of their advertising budgets towards demeaning their counterparts, people have no problem understanding the facts behind their messages but remain uninspired by them. On the other hand, when people communicate directly to the middle part of our brains and talk directly to our emotions, we resonate with them differently than if they merely give us facts and reasons we ought to choose them.
The difference between the way great leaders like Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy communicated with people and the way both campaigns are doing today, lies in the part of the brain each of them addressed. MLK and JFK chose to address people's hearts and inspire them, rather than blind them with negative facts about their opponents' positions. Simon Sinek, best-selling author and ethnographer, makes the point that Martin Luther King gave the "I have a dream" speech, not the "I have a plan" speech.
Today, with the virality and vast reach of social media, political parties have more channels than ever to enunciate and push their messages to voters. With that comes an opportunity, but also a responsibility. The opportunity lies in the ease at which information could spread if it is communicated in a way that resonates with people. The responsibility is to assume a role of real leadership and look beyond proving the other side wrong. The fact of the matter is that the more both parties attack one another, the less united the United States becomes.
In twenty years from now, looking back at this historic election, Americans are not going to be concerned with who ran the most negative campaign as much as who managed to successfully address America's biggest challenges. The bigger picture is that the U.S. economy is in recovery, there are certain social issues that need to be addressed, and numerous challenges abroad.
The United States is one of the greatest nations in the world. In order for it to remain so, both parties ought to stop treating the presidential race like a zero-sum game; they ought to look at gaps they could bridge and problems they could solve as one entity. Needless to say, this is easier said than done, but this is the only way the United States could remain a leader on the world stage, is if its leadership at home is united. In the words of John F. Kennedy, both parties ought to "ask not what [their] country can do for [them] -- ask what [they] can do for [their] country."