What We Can Learn from the 'Most Offensive Political Ad Ever'

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A conservative group has posted a racist and sexist ad attacking Janice Hahn, the Democratic candidate in a special election for a California congressional seat, for letting gangsters out of jail "so they could rape and kill again." The Turn Right USA video features black guys with AKs stuffing dollar bills into the panties of a woman who's supposed to be Hahn while they sing a little jingle with lines like "Give us your cash, bitch." Hahn is running against Tea Party-backed Republican Craig Huey; the vote is July 12. Slate's Dave Weigel has called it "the most offensive political ad ever, this hour."

Race-baiting is nothing new in American politics, but this ad breaks new ground in its explicit racism. And there are several things we can learn from it:

  • Living in the digital age means nearly everyone has the freedom and resources to make a racist campaign ad, even if they don't have the skills and finesse to do it with some subtlety, like Lee Atwater.
  • Near the end of the video, one of the men moves as though he's going to perform a sexual act on the woman--whose face we never see--with his gun. The social conservatives who campaign against the sexualization of our culture are often the very people most intensely fixated the debauchery of a bad hip-hop video.
  • Yet at the same time, the focus of the ad makes all that analysis that the Tea Party cares about fiscal issues but not so much about social ones seem inaccurate.
  • This ad is supposed to be "funny." It fails. Political comedy is hard.

The Turn Right ad:

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.