Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Super Bowl Commercial: Republican Racism or Fair Criticism?

There is a honest way to criticize the role that China plays today in our world-its devotion to mercantilism, its general refusal to protect US intellectual property rights, its contribution to climate change, its currency manipulation, its reliance on cheap labor and repressive central government. However Michigan Republican senatorial candidate (and former congressman) Pete Hoekstra decided not to make any of those thoughtful arguments in his campaign ad attacking Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. No, Hoekstra went for the more visceral approach.

And so far Hoesktra is holding firm in defending the ad. Hoekstra is not exactly known for being union-friendly but Michigan is a state which has not had much benefit from "globalization". Whether it be foreign students in Michigan universities, foreign car sales threatening the health of the Big Three, or US companies packing up and moving their entire operation overseas, globalization and outsourcing are epithets around here. Still, Hoekstra HAD to know that such an ad would bring commentary and disgust, which may well be what he wanted. He is claiming that his detractors are the ones bringing race into the discussion, not him. I think this is kind of like repeating the children's ditty about Chinese and Coca-Cola and being surprised and offended that anyone is actually, well , offended. The other issue in the background is that once these sorts of feelings get aroused and exploited, who knows where they can end up.
King said it's too early in the campaign to know what kind of impact the ad  will have politically. It depends, she said, on whether he can neutralize the fallout and how the opposition uses it.
There was one immediate effect. Washtenaw County Commissioner Alicia Ping on Monday was so offended by the ad she donated money to Hoekstra opponent Clark Durant's campaign.
"For him not to know that this is unacceptable, either he doesn't care or he doesn't get it," said the Saline Republican, who is Chinese-American.
On Monday, Hoekstra stood by the $144,000 statewide ad buy, blaming the "left" for bringing up racial concerns to divert the conversation from the real issue he was pushing of Democratic incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow's spending record.
"We're stereotyping here the American left who's more than willing to spend, spend, spend," Hoekstra told a group of supportive voters in Birmingham on Monday morning. "This is why they're angry. They're not angry about stereotyping the Chinese. They don't care."
Hoekstra said he wanted to be "bold" and "daring" and he urged supporters to explain to friends that it's his opponent who is "politically incorrect." 
 "Debbie is spending your money, and your kids' and your grandkids' money. That's politically incorrect," he said. 
Nick De Leeuw, a Michigan GOP consultant, scolded Hoekstra's spot on Facebook: "Racism and xenophobia aren't any way to get things done." TV host Lou Dobbs said on Fox News that Hoekstra is "doing a terrific job" at defining results of public policy choices.

1) Do you find this offensive? If not, why?
2) Is China's economic relationship with the US a fair topic to discuss?
3) How would you re-work this ad if you were a consultant?
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