Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Gallows Humor vs. Pure Fear in Political Ad Strategy

Last night, I saw the following ad start circulating by a pro-choice organization targeting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (and, by extension, the draconian anti-abortion regime that has recently been ushered in).


I'm curious what people think on this (as I've mentioned, cutting political ads is something I'm absolutely irrationally confident I'd be good at).

I fully agree that Democrats should be running and running hard on the demise of Roe. If there is one thing Americans hate, it is changes to settled expectations, and this one was a doozy. Democrats can and should do everything they can to elevate and place at the forefront the anxieties, fears, and trauma that is associated with this settled right being unceremoniously torn away.

I am curious how people view this ad, in particular, as fitting into the strategy. The most striking feature of the ad is the abrupt switch in tone -- from a pure emotional appeal to absurdist gallows humor. The ad has gotten generally positive reception on my Twitter feed, though I can imagine people thinking it's a little too jokey and slapstick for the moment. The alternative, of course, would be to run ads that aren't cut with humor but rather play purely on fear -- fear of women dying, being maimed, being arrested. I want to be clear: those fears are justified. I don't think this is fear-mongering, because these terrible prospects are absolutely on the horizon where they are not already the reality. But the point is there is a different style of ad one can imagine that doesn't flinch away from the raw terror of the moment by interspersing it with a bit.

Consider something like the following: 
A woman is sitting in an examination room in a hospital gown. She's terrified, and has clearly been crying, but she's trying to stifle any sound and keep a brave face. There's blood spotting the gown near her groin. The camera slowly pans over, zooming out so she stays in frame but capturing more of the exam room until it reaches the doorway. Out in the hall, one sees three police officers talking to a doctor or nurse. Eventually, one of the officers walks into the exam room with handcuffs out.
No humor, no levity, no absurdism. Not even any dialogue. Just a terrified woman, in the most vulnerable moment of her life, facing the abusive power of the state. A terrible image. But we are living in terrible times.

Would that be better? Worse? Or should both types of ads be run? I'm not sure. Again, curious what people think about what's the right and most effective strategy.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

"Dems" Who Endorse Third Party Candidates Are Monsters. Zero Exceptions.

Back in 2018, when I was still living in Berkeley, I was really having a difficult time deciding who to vote for in a D-on-D assembly race between Buffy Wicks and Jovanka Beckles. Both seemed like solid people I'd be happy to have representing me in Sacramento, and I struggled to find much distinguishing the two.

Until I learned that Beckles had voted for Jill Stein in 2016. Suddenly, a hard choice became very easy. Wicks gets my vote (and she went on to win the election).

Fast forward a few years, to 2022. I now live in Oregon, a pretty reliably blue state. Except this year, our gubernatorial race includes not just the standard D-R matchup between Democrat Tina Kotek and Republican Christine Drazan. It also includes a well-financed "independent" candidate -- former Democratic State Senator Betsy Johnson,* well-known as among the most conservative Democrats in the caucus. Johnson, who has called Portland a "city of roaches", ran expressly because she couldn't tolerate a more liberal Democrat being the party's standard-bearer. Polling suggests an extremely tight race, and Johnson 's presence on the ballot could let the Republican slip into the governor's mansion with barely 30% of the vote.

The very thought makes me livid. The idea that in Oregon, in 2022, we might have a Republican Governor because some egomaniacal blue dog Dem just couldn't back her party's nominee is outrageous.

Among Johnson's endorsers is outgoing Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader, in an obvious sore-loser move after he lost his primary to challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. I couldn't vote in that election -- I now live in Schrader's district, but I moved here a few weeks after the election -- and I certainly understood the pragmatic argument in favor of Schrader in a swing-y district. But Schrader himself? Absolutely dead to me. I shed zero tears for his demise.

There is nothing I have more contempt for than a nominal Democrat supporting a third party in a contested general election. It is terrible if it is a "from the left" protest vote for a middle-of-three-evils like Jill Stein. It is terrible if it is a "from the center" chin-stroker vote because the Democrat is "just too radical"

The current iteration of the Republican Party is a hairsbreadth away from being actual fascists. Stopping them from attaining political power is a moral obligation of the highest order. Very, very few things can trump that obligation. I can think of essentially no significant Democratic figure whose views or practices are so noxious as to trump that obligation. Yes, that includes every single member of the Squad. Yes, that includes Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema and Henry Cuellar. I don't care how annoying you find them. I don't care how valid your grievances are against them. None of them are worse than your typical 21st century Republican. If they are the general election nominee, and they're running against a Republican, you vote for them, and you do it with a smile.

* In researching this post, I learned the ultimate terrible fact: Johnson is a Carleton College alum. She also got her J.D. at Lewis & Clark. I am devastated.