There are offensive political ads, and then there are ads that defy logical explanation for their very existence. The attack ad created by the independent Super PAC Turn Right USA against California Democratic congressional candidate Janice Hahn easily wins the title of the most offensive political ad ever conceived.
The ad lambasts Hahn for using taxpayer money to pay former gang members to serve as gang intervention specialists. The ad alleges that Hahn even negotiated for some of the former gang members to be released early from prison to do their government-sponsored work. Keep in mind, these accusations are made over a cheesy cutout of Hahn's floating head and captions in a blood-splattered font. But that's child's play compared to what comes next.
Let's see. How do we explain this without forfeiting our PG rating? In essence, the ad becomes a rap video, or at least what the director of the commercial, Ladd Ehlinger, Jr., thinks is a rap video. The protagonist of the video is a stripper, meant to represent Hahn. Two black rappers, doubling as ex-gang bangers, dance around the stripper's gyrating posterior yelling, "Give me your cash, (b-word)!" Insane offensiveness aside, why are the gangbangers asking for money from "stripper" Hahn, when a stripper is typically the one receiving money from her customers?
Again, logic has nothing on this commercial, which was denounced by representatives of both political parties, including Craig Huey, Hahn's Republican opponent, whose campaign manager called the spot "completely offensive," adding "I wish that it had never been made" [source: Marinucci]. That makes two of us, pal.
Author's Note: 5 Most Offensive Campaign Ads Ever Produced
As I watched clip after clip of absurd political ads from both parties, I thought of the famous quote from H.L. Mencken: "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." Offensive and over-the-top political ads are effective because they play to our basest nature -- our stereotypes, our fears, our distrust of the political "enemy." The only way we can slow the steady decline of our political discourse is to vote for folks who try to take the high road, or at least the higher road than their opponent. Good luck finding them!
- Bingham, Amy. ABC News. "Senate Candidate Pete Hoekstra Under Fire for Racially 'Offensive,' 'Atrocious' Super Bowl Ad." February 6, 2012 (June 10, 2012.) http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/02/senate-candidate-under-fire-for-very-disturbing-super-bowl-ad/
- Condon, Stephanie. CBS News. "Alabama Gov. Candidate Tim James: 'We Speak English. If You Want to Live Here, Learn It." April 27, 2010 (June 10, 2012.) http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20003524-503544.html
- Farley, Robert. Politifact. "Alabama's Time James says government report backs up his claim that non-English speaking drivers are a public safety hazard." April 29, 2010 (June 10, 2012.) http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/apr/29/tim-james/alabamas-tim-james-says-government-report-backs-hi/
- Marinucci, Carla. San Francisco Chronicle. "A new low in political TV spots: attack ad shows CD-36 candidate Janice Hahn as stripper." June 15, 2011 (June 10, 2012.) http://blog.sfgate.com/nov05election/2011/06/15/a-new-low-in-political-tv-spots-attack-ad-shows-cd-36-candidate-janice-hahn-as-stripper-video/
- Schwartz, David. Museum of the Moving Image. "Revolving Door" (June 10, 2012.) http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1988
- Sullivan, Amy. TIME. "Why Rick Perry's Ads are Wrong on Religion — And Obama." December 9, 2011 (June 10, 2012.) http://swampland.time.com/2011/12/09/why-rick-perrys-new-ads-are-wrong-on-religion-and-obama/#ixzz1wYWP78aR
- Yadron, Danny. The Wall Street Journal. "Perry's Key Moment in Debate: a Memory Lapse." November 10, 2011 (June 10, 2012.) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203537304577028940895320320.html
What's required to vote in America? HowStuffWorks looks at how homeless people can vote in the U.S.