More on the 'We Take Your Jobs' Hoekstra Commercial

Maybe everyone else in politics-land knew this, but I was interested to learn:

Thumbnail image for Fred-Tie.jpg

- 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.

- Last year he did those weirdo pre-announcement ads for Jon Huntsman, and at the time said that Huntsman was "the only GOP candidate who has a prayer of beating Barack Obama."

- 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.)
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In