I think I speak for a lot of Americans when I say that I cannot wait for the midterm elections to be over so we can stop talking about them, speculating about them, arguing about them, but most of all -- so we can stop being subjected to terrible political ads.
Recently our political ads have sort of begun to resemble the first few rounds of American Idol, where for every Jennifer Hudson or Fantasia there are a thousand William Hungs. I'm not exactly sure when it happened but somewhere along the way our election year ads moved from groundbreaking to so crummy that they wouldn't make the cut on America's Funniest Home Videos, or maybe they would -- unintentionally.
Consider Christine O'Donnell, the Delaware Senate candidate, saying, without a trace of irony, "I'm not a witch." (Click here to watch the ad in its entirety.)
When I first heard about the ad I thought, "Good for her! Taking on her critics with a tongue in cheek nod to one of their biggest criticisms." Then I actually saw the ad, and realized, not a trace of tongue in cheek. Nope. The woman is seriously telling voters she's not a witch with the same conviction most candidates say, "I won't raise your taxes." Call me crazy but if you're having to start from a place of convincing voters you don't practice witchcraft, you might as well also tell them you're not an alien, murderer or voodoo priestess while you're at it. This may not be Salem 1692, but today's voter still draws the line when it comes to certain things, and a candidate who may be tempted to wiggle their nose to make opponents disappear is one of them. And telling a voter not to worry! "I am not a witch" ranks right up there with O.J. saying, "I am desperately searching for the real killers." It's not exactly comforting. Although I guess O'Donnell could cut a follow-up ad that says, "If I were really a witch don't you think I would have done something about my opponent's double-digit lead this close to election day?"
Then again maybe she's waiting until Halloween to pull out all of the stops.
But believe it or not O'Donnell's ad wasn't even the worst of the bunch. There's the famous -- or rather infamous -- demon sheep ad from Carly Fiorina. I would try to explain it to you but that would involve me pretending that it makes sense, so instead here's a link. All I could think while watching this ad is of the childhood fable "The Emperor's New Clothes." Here's Fiorina, a candidate who has millions of dollars to burn. (And burn it her political consultants did; actually holding a bonfire of hundred dollar bills might have been a more practical use of her dollars.) This ad is the political consulting equivalent of malpractice, so much so that I was tempted to send Fiorina a t-shirt that read, "I spent a fortune on a political ad and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." Now there are those who would point out that the ad must have done some good. After all Fiorina did win her primary. But I would argue that Fiorina won despite this ad -- not because of it. She actually probably would have increased her victory margin had she simply spent the dough buying a few hundred wool sweaters for voters instead. It was that bad (or should I say baahhhd. Okay, apologies for the lame sheep humor.)
Then there was the candidate who thought that depicting Nancy Pelosi as the witch from the Wizard of Oz was a good idea. You know because we women love it when men call women witches.
There's the candidate who flirted with gay stereotypes with his image of Barney Frank.
And who can forget this little ditty from the Weinstein campaign, which I would like to recommend be used in interrogation rooms across the country. Because after hearing this song on a continuous loop, any criminal would talk just to make it stop.
Now I know I'm going to sound like one of those old fogies, reminiscing about how "you kids just don't know good music today. Back in my day..." But as I noted on yesterday's Dylan Ratigan Show, political ads used to be better, seriously. In election years past there's always been one or two ads that are game changers that you know will be taught in political science classes for years to come.
Think President Johnson's "Daisy" ad, so effective it only needed to be aired once, or the first President Bush's ad featuring convicted felon Willie Horton, which you can view here. It is still considered one of the most racially inflammatory ads in history but without question one of the most effective and memorable. Then there's the infamous "Hands" ad run by the Jesse Helms campaign which crafted illusions that affirmative action was as big a threat to America in the early nineties as terrorism is to America today. (Click here to view.) And then there's Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" ad that has become the prototype for feel good advertising.
Hillary Clinton's "3am" ad during the 2008 presidential primary certainly belongs on this list as a soon to be classic, but "I am not a Witch," Demon Sheep and dancing Barney Frank -- not so much.
But in watching today's ads I am reminded of a Hollywood director (forgive me for not recalling which one) who in an interview recalled how excited many of them were in the 1980's at the prospect of video cameras making it possible for a poor, unknown talent out of Nebraska or somewhere, to be discovered as the next Martin Scorsese overnight. But he noted that of course all these years later that's not really what's happened. Instead we have thousands of people thinking that a ten-minute video of their toddler going to the bathroom while their cat does a dance and their dog chases its tail is potential Oscar material.
The same appears to hold true for the political ad world. It's a lot easier to cut political ads these days and to distribute them to a mass audience. But as my mother often says, "Just because something can be done, doesn't mean it should."
So I for one can't wait for November 2nd to come and go -- and for many these ads to go with it.
(P.S. Feel free to nominate your suggestions for this year's best and worst ads in the comments below.)
This post originally appeared on TheLoop21.com for which Goff is a Political Blogger.
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