Regular readers understand the elite lifestyle of ya boy B. Bunny by now. For the past two months I’ve been doing the usual, laying on the couch watching the news, eating Elfwiches and drinking wine. (To all the new folk: just know that I’m a seriously classy bitch.)
Anyway, this classy bitch has seen too much of the old boob-tube for the last few months, and I want to vent about all the seasonal political ads I’ve been involuntarily consuming in this cursed election year. So far, I’ve learned that Joe Biden will be kind to old people and that I won’t be safe in my home unless I vote for Donald Trump. But I’ve been more intrigued by the ads of John James, the Republican running for the Senate here in Michigan.
To start, John James can best be described as a chimera crafted to conform to what a relatable, cool person looks like in the mind of a young, Morning Watch-reading Republican. He’s a pro-life, pro-business West Point grad with an MBA from Detroit who flew choppers in Iraq, which lets him go on about SACRIFICE and how we all need to do it even though after he got back he immediately joined his daddy’s supply chain business. What a SACRIFICE!
…Oh, and he’s also black, so Republicans can finally say they aren’t racist because they have a black friend who just so happens to also support Big Don.
But there is one trait that John James doesn’t have when it comes to good old-fashioned Republican politics: high quality negative ad campaigns.
I’m gonna be honest: his ad game is trash. His most famous blunder about a month ago came when he unleashed some ads attacking his opponent Gary Peters for missing meetings Here at The Evening Look, missing meetings is extremely cool, but I suppose James figured it went well with his message about SACRIFICE. Republicans were so confident in this messaging that they also sent out a mailer with Gary Peters on the side of a milk carton. These ads were so incredibly inaccurate (they don’t mention that half the meetings they accuse Peters of missing were from when he was in the House almost 10 years ago) that it handed the Peters campaign a unique opportunity for a thick ass clap-back. They released commercials touting how independent fact checkers proved Gary Peters actually showed up to most of his meetings and they even tactically pivoted the entire narrative into a whole slogan about how “Gary Peters shows up for Michigan.”
This spectacular bungling on the part of James’ campaign has led him to descend to two different ads that just show him SACRIFICING by doing a military obstacle course that looks like one of the home gyms you see on American Ninja Warrior. It just reeks of “I’m a physically active vet who has an unhealthy fetish for helicopters and Gary Peters is a tubby cupcake who will NEVER climb Mount Midoriyama” vibes.
Like, the entire ad has him literally climbing a WALL as if that wasn’t one of his boy Trump’s MAIN CAMPAIGN PROMISES. I’m surprised Trump hasn’t contacted him to tell him not to give away state secrets about how to defeat his border policies. Overall, the entire ad just performs like a sad theatrical display of physical competence from an utterly bland man on his last legs. At least he still has his helicopter.
Overall, this ties into a very important realization, which is that Republicans are often better at negative ads overall, John James excluded. The Trump campaign pushed ads with images of burning cities and Bidens face looming while a 911 call hits voicemail. The Lincoln Project is literally a coalition of Republicans who actively used brutal negative ads to create this current moment using those talents to make negative ads against Trump because the Democrats are so bad at it.
Whether you like to admit it or not (and trust me, I hate admitting it) Republicans are phenomenal at advertising. Trump’s entire campaign in 2016 relied on media manipulation and self-promotion. Fear is an unrivaled motivator, and while COVID-19 has opened up a bountiful route for Democratic ads this season, they’re still only temporary and never seem to have the gravity that Republican negative ads bring to the table. I hope the Democrats take this moment to really reflect on the power of going negative and can show their teeth more often in the future.
There’s a defense to be made about ‘honor in politics’, but you can only take the high road so long as its supported by incompetent jocks like John James who have more ‘attack helicopter’ energy in their logos than their ad campaigns.