Maybe everyone else in politics-land knew this, but I was interested to learn:
- The brains behind the ad belonged to Fred Davis, shown in a picture from his bio at his company's site.
- Davis was also the creator of two other memorable political ads, Christine O'Donnell's "I'm Not a Witch" and Carly Fiorina's "Demon Sheep" ads, clips of both of which can be found on his site ("Witch" here and "Sheep" here). Plus other greatest hits, as listed by the WaPo.
- His uncle is ... Senator Jim Inhofe! I'd love to be there at Thanksgiving. It's kind of like the Adams, Taft, or Roosevelt lineages of leadership.
On the merits of the ad, two reader comments. First, about its cinematography:
You have probably already noticed that the opening and the ending are stock footage from SE Asia somewhere. I am guessing that the meat of it was shot in Kern County somewhere.
Now, about the possibility of an extra dog-whistle, an American reader with a Chinese last name adds:
You mentioned the visual dog-whistle this ad provides, and I would add to that characterization. In addition to the Vietnam imagery of films like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, or The Quiet American, it also evoked the specter of Vincent Chin, the Chinese American who was killed 30 years ago by a Detroit-area auto plant superintendent who thought Chin was Japanese. This was during the period of American paranoia about Japanese domination of business, especially the automobile industry. The killer allegedly said to Chin, ""It's because of you little m***s that we're out of work!" even though Chin was not Japanese. Chin was beaten to death and the perpetrators were given very lenient sentences for what is in my view, a hate-based and pre-meditated crime.
I'm sure I won't be the first or last reader to point this out, but the Hoekstra ad served as another, perhaps unintentional dog-whistle. As someone whose ancestors came from southern China, just as Vincent Chin's ancestors had done, maybe from a place similar to the setting of this advertisement, this resonated loudly and unequivocally: don't let Asians take your jobs.
And, from a Michigander now living in the South:
As a Son-of-Michigan-In-Exile, I am appalled at Hoekstra's ad. It's so bad, I won't be able to make fun of South Carolina politics for the rest of the week, and I'm sure there will be something wonderful said by someone down here - they never disappoint.
The ad is flat out racist, and there is no idea behind it except racism. What, you say? The ad is supposed to show how China is getting ahead in global competition? Then why is the word "China" never mentioned in the ad? This as has only one message: vote for Hoekstra if you hate Asians (although it's probably phrased a little more offensively than that).
Finally, from a veteran of Republican politics:
Liberals are without doubt hyperventilating over the racist implications of Pete Hoekstra's political ad against Debbie Stabenow. But believe me, that's not a very effective way of attacking Hoekstra. Most of his potential voter base (including socially conservative industrial union members in Michigan) simply won't care, and he will in any case spin it that he is being persecuted by the politically-correct thought police.
The more interesting angle is one of hypocrisy. Hoekstra voted for permanent MFN for China in 1999, and China's creditor status vis-à-vis the U.S. simply reflects all those good-paying union jobs Hoekstra shipped there (yes, I know international economics is more complicated than that, but would certainly put Hoekstra on the defensive.)