An article posted on Salon by Katie McDonough pokes some fun at the GOP for its flat and tacky effort to reach younger — presumably “hipper” — voters. They are indeed cringe-worthy efforts to re-frame the party of paranoid old bigots as something smart and relevant, but…well…given what the GOP has to work with, what would you expect?
Let’s start with the GOP’s target audience. It is — in a word — limited. It is limited to people who don’t really have time for ideas. Katie McDonough pokes fun at one of the actor’s “cool leather jacket”. Of course it is dreadful, but if the GOP strategists were on their toes, this jacket probably isn’t even leather. This is all by design, certainly it must be. People who don’t have time for ideas hardly have time for style, especially a style of their own. No, we’re talking about a Members Only crowd here and the jacket fits perfectly. And I think the GOP is right on the mark by trying to draw some affinity with the blasé .
Anything else could very well alienate those with whom they might have some connection. Thus dressing up the performance with too much authenticity would be a risky venture. What is the GOP, after all, other than desperate sameness and a fear of the Other?
Nonetheless, the ads do try to reach beyond the limits of conservative identity and feature the young pleather-clad hipster, a young black woman, an immigrant father, and a crying baby. And they are each dreadful.
These actors deliver flat empty lines as if read from cue cards, the baby included. Along with this lack of any emotion — except for the excellently cast baby — is a lack of any facts or meaningful statements about which to be excited. But we are talking about the GOP brand. There can be no substance here. (We know what it means to paint oneself in a corner, right?)
But you might think the producers of these ads could have done something to make them just a little better. Maybe? Creativity and intelligence, closely intertwined…well, maybe enough said.
This ad campaign makes the GOP’s banal rhetoric seem especially empty and barren, and that’s a tall order. Of course people worry about jobs, family, and schools…nothing new here…but other than being black, hip, or an immigrant, what have you got? (Chirp, chirp.)
In the end these ads represent a sloppy kind of exploitation. Isn’t this obvious? If you want to reach black women, for example, you need to do more than plop down a sharp black woman in front of the camera. Tell us instead what the GOP has that will speak to black women in America. Here these ads entirely miss their opportunity — if one ever really existed — to target a broader audience. The actors do nothing more than mouth the old tired lines about opportunity and freedom that the GOP doesn’t support anyway. What they attempt here is to make the messenger the message. And it doesn’t work when there is no bold stroke that these actors can convey.
And so the lack of style and substance in these ads is hardly surprising. The GOP cannot produce ads incongruent with the intellect and interests of the only people likely to be persuaded by the ads. Their hope largely remains in holding on to its base, which I suppose is true on the left, too. (Such is the sad state of public discourse and ideas in America today.) Sure, maybe a fence sitter here and there might be reassured by an articulate woman or a crying baby, but let’s hope that more thoughtful people will see beyond the performance and recognize nothing new, nothing substantial, and nothing changed.