Democrat Jon Ossoff has lost the most expensive race for a House seat in US history. Republican Karen Handel beat him by pert near four points, becoming the new representative of Georgia’s sixth congressional district and shattering Democrats’ hope of retaking the House with the aid of a fortunate meteor strike. This election was not very important. To hear FiveThirtyEight and various other pundits tell it, it wasn’t even good for a bellwether. The only thing we can say conclusively is that it occasioned the spending of more money—about $55 million, by the Times’s count—than was ever before spent on a congressional race.
Was it worth it? Not for Democrats, who only managed to wedge another loss for low-agenda centrism into their electoral postseason. I hesitate to say it was worth it for Republicans, either. They squeezed donors tightly to increase by one their majority in a chamber that seats 435. But at least a shitload of consultants got paid—and in an off year, no less. Say what you will about the Democrats’ recent streak of expensive moral victories; at least it’s funded commercials like this:
I’m no veteran campaign operative, but I think the idea for this advertisement was actually an idea for some tweets. What does this message gain from becoming a video? Maybe the campaign wanted to reach voters who watch television instead of using the internet but still admire people who stare numbly at their phones. Perhaps their research found that voters in GA-6 liked Jon Ossoff but wanted him to more strongly resemble a two-episode character on Veep. Or maybe the old ad-budget pie got sliced up in a way that left an off piece.
But wait, you say, ever on the lookout for opportunities to be charitable, this looks like B-roll footage. Maybe this ad was made from the kind of bland, soundless footage campaigns release publicly so that unaffiliated groups can use it in their own spots. The whole tweeting conceit is probably just a clever workaround. But no, the last frames inform us that the ad was paid for by Jon Ossoff for Congress and, almost as improbably, approved by Jon Ossoff.
It’s easy to second-guess the Democratic Party lately, and I think now is a good time to remember that no one else has demonstrated any better understanding of how to beat Republican candidates. But ads like this one explore the limits of campaigning without a strong policy agenda. To a lot of viewers, this is footage of a bland corporate type promising not to be Donald Trump. That doesn’t offer much to voters who worry that bland corporate types are running the country into the ground—a description that covers a substantial portion of the electorate, plus many of the people who hold themselves outside it. It’s funny how limp Democratic messaging has become. But only for a second, and then I get scared.
Black men applaud Kendall Jenner in a Pepsi commercial.
One day after releasing a three-minute ad with original music, a multi-character storyline, and at least one helicopter shot—as well as another Kardashian everyone seems to know but me—Pepsi has pulled its Kendall Jenner commercial. Is this the fastest an American company has ever pulled an ad? No—that would be the disastrous Quaker Oats Company spot where Mikey refuses Life cereal until he dies of starvation, which ran for one afternoon in 1994. But this is pretty close. What is it about this commercial that so immediately enraged people? Pepsi gives us a hint in today’s statement:
Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.
Yeah, Kendall Jenner has suffered enough. But what’s this about making light of serious issues? The problem seems to be that this ad conspicuously elides serious issues of all kinds. Video after the jump.
The title card from Secure America Now’s 60-second election spot
Secure America Now is a non-profit, non-partisan organization. It doesn’t advocate for or against any specific candidate; it just brings “critical national security issues to the forefront of American debate.” Granted, its homepage includes such links as “Footage of Hillary in Prison,” “Prevent Four More Years of Obama’s Terrible National Security Policies,” and “Hillary Clinton is a Foreign Policy Disaster.” But those aren’t election advocacy. They’re just critical national security issues that mention presidential candidates by name. By the same token, the ad warning of an imminent Muslim takeover of the United States that Secure America Now released this weekend isn’t election-related. It’s just Nazi-style propaganda about the danger posed to America by adherents of a particular religion. Video after the jump.
“I got a six-figure check for separating twins / I got a [bleep] like that for putting them in.”
By now you have heard of Ben Carson’s rap ad, which is playing on urban radio stations across the southeast and in waiting rooms throughout hell. You can listen to it here, or just wait to hear it bumping from a Buick Lucerne. It’s possible Carson should not have made a rap ad. The circumstances that led him to do so seem fortuitous: self-described “Republican Christian rapper” Aspiring Mogul, aka Robert Donaldson, sent a song to Carson’s campaign manager after seeing the biopic Gifted Hands. The Carson campaign put Asp-Mo’s song on its Facebook page, and from there it was a logical step to collaborating on a rapping campaign spot that goes like this:
Vote and support Ben Carson / for our next president to be awesome. / If we want to get America back on track, / we gotta vote Ben Carson, a matter of fact.
Those are the two couplets by Aspiring Mogul that made it into the one-minute ad; the rest is sound bites—I guess samples—from Carson’s speeches. There is also a flute loop. From a certain perspective, it makes sense that Carson would release a rap ad. But from another, better perspective, it makes no sense at all.
"It's actually parked out back, if you want to get out of here."
You may not have noticed,* but the last few years of McDonald’s commercials have been conspicuously free of Ronald McDonald, the clown so brightly colored that only a child‘s retinas are innocent enough to look at him. It turns out that L. Ron McDonald has been the object of an ongoing campaign of protest from various height/weight-appropriate killjoys, who argue that he is designed to sell unhealthy food directly to children. That is obviously true. When was the last time you saw a clown convince an adult of anything, much less what to put in his mouth? Whereas that works on kids all the time. With their McCafe marketing campaign and their new emphasis on salads, apple slices and other substances that will not immediately stop a mouse’s heart, McDonald’s has been working the adult/child divide for the last several years, so it’s only logical that they would again release Ronald McDonald into the wild. He is back; he is still simultaneously nonthreatening and extremely disturbing, and he is definitely for kids.