Or at least that’s what I imagine some opponents of Pete Hoekstra are thinking the morning after his campaign ran a–what I will bluntly call racist–ad during the Super Bowl.
In my few years of political ad absorption, there have been a couple flops that embedded themselves in my mind. First, in the mid-90’s, Geoffrey Fieger ran an ad against incumbent Michigan governor, John Engler in which Engler was portrayed as an actual chicken running off the set. Not terribly offensive, but clearly stupid. And it did him no favors with the election results. The second ad was what I consider the notorious “sour on Schauer” rant of Tim Walberg’s (current US Congressman from Michigan). Not only was it childish, annoying, and completely lacking in substance, but it practically accused Mark Schauer of being in bed (no pun initially intended, but now I like it) with child pornographers. I was quite satisfied with Walberg’s defeat, though I had supported him in earlier elections.
To my amazement, Pete Hoekstra has put these antics to shame… at being shameless. Likely taking a cue from now-Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, Hoekstra decided to throw down some serious cash to improve his own brand awareness. Well, thirty racist seconds later, he achieved just that. The Detroit Free Press has the commercial posted here, right below Hoekstra’s oblivious response to questions regarding the ad. The basics: a young Asian woman thanks Debbie “Spenditnow” for sending money and jobs to China. As the actress puts it, “Your economy get very weak, our economy get very good.” Picking up the broken English hearkening back to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s?” About ten seconds into the ad, I turned to my friend and exclaimed in a shocked voice, “That is so racist.” Not a very profound reaction, but one that I am sure echoed through many Super Bowl parties around the real state that looks like a mitten.
If that had been the whole ordeal, I may have only tweeted exactly what I had already said (the “that was so racist” bit). But that was not the end. Not only did Hoekstra dump an amount of cash I can only guess at into this ad, but he followed it up with a whole themed web site reinforcing his social disconnect (http://www.debbiespenditnow.com/). And, if you follow the link above to the Free Press, you will find that he stands behind the ad. His campaign and supporters call it aggressive and consider it a great victory against Debbie Stabenow. In the Free Press article, Hoekstra claimed that anyone who called the ad racist simply wanted to avoid the issue. Which issue was that? That American consumerism is no bad news to the Chinese economy, or that you think anyone actually wants to engage in a serious discussion with someone who does not understand how he has immediately disqualified himself from adequately representing nearly 250,000 Michiganders? I also find it ironic that the ad was apparently filmed in California, despite Michigan’s recent attempts to attract filmmakers. Wasn’t Michigan’s economy supposed to be the point of the ad?
Wow, what an expensive way to drop out of a race. I am no political expert, but I have a feeling this is the kind of event that signals the end of any major future political hopes. It is even more surprising coming from someone with as much political experience as Hoekstra. Typically, I try not to aim words so negatively at specific people, but this was simply too shocking and infuriating not to speak up. Many have called on Hoekstra to apologize, but I have yet to hear him relent. Here are my suggestions for Pete Hoekstra (and this coming from someone who supported him in the primary against Rick Snyder):
- Take down the web site, though it cannot now be erased.
- Take the video off YouTube, though it cannot be erased either.
- Apologize, though it will likely do little to make people think better of you.
- Step out of the race; whether you are a capable policymaker or not, you have communicated the opposite and forfeited the privilege to represent Michigan.
Am I calling Pete Hoekstra racist? Thirty seconds is too short to conclude such a heavy verdict. Was the ad racist? Yes. Did Hoekstra approve the ad? Yes.