Those searching for racism in campaign ads should search their own soul first

Jonathan Garthwaite
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Posted: Oct 30, 2006 12:56 PM
Those searching for racism in campaign ads should search their own soul first

Halloween Eve. In some parts of the country they call it Devil's Night or Mischief Night where mischievous teenagers often go out on a soda-fueled adventure, committing relatively harmless acts of vandalism, smashing pumpkins and egging and toilet-papering houses.

This is to help them deal with their pent-up adolescent energy, I suppose.

In similar fashion, the final days of Election 2006 are upon us and this election has had more than its fair share of mischief.

In some cases they have potential to be true "October surprises" as in the Foley scandal, which clearly had a negative effect on Republican candidates for a couple of weeks.

Others seem to fizzle out as fast as they get started, as did the Sen. Reid-Las Vegas land deal scandal.

The degree to which the mainstream media — television networks and newspapers — cover the stories usually has a direct impact on whether the story has legs or not.

But others clearly fall into the category of harmless mischief. Harmless to the nation but not without consequences to the campaigns involved. Especially if the mainstream media decide to keep an issue on the front page.

One such event is the brouhaha over a campaign ad run by the Republican National Committee in the Bob Corker-Harold Ford Jr. race for the Senate seat in Tennessee.

The election ad in question attacked Democrat Harold Ford Jr on his stances on marriage taxes, contributions from porn producers, gun ownership, death taxes, North Korea, and his attendance at a Playboy party.

Harold Ford Jr. had come back from a double-digit deficit to pull even, and the RNC must have felt it was necessary to point out that Ford doesn't share Tennessee values.

The Democrats and their supporters in the mainstream media jumped on the ad and declared it racist.

The battle for control of the Senate could not be closer and most experts think control rests on the results of elections in Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia and Tennessee.

If the Democrats have any hope of regaining the majority, the Tennessee race is a must win. So it shouldn't come as a surprise to any campaign watcher that this race would be the source of some of Election '06's greatest histrionics.

The focus of the complaint centers on a woman, who can probably be best described as a bimbo, who says she "met Harold at the Playboy party" and "Harold, call me." The ad certainly aims to inject a little humor into a serious race but it focuses on key issues of taxes, guns, national security and character.

Apparently though, the RNC went a step over the line when the Playboy bunny was white.

Bob Moser, writing in The Nation, goes so far as to say the Republicans have spent the whole campaign trying "to insinuate that Ford is just the kind of charming, winsome, slick-talking black man who makes white women's knees weak. Now insinuation had given way to a race-baiting version of 'shock and awe'."

Another YouTube member superimposed commentary over the ad and suggested that the camouflage paint on the gun-rights advocate was actually "black-face" and intended as racist code.

Other bloggers went after a radio ad that featured a background track of drums. According to the racism police, these drums were actually "tom-toms" or "jungle drums" and once again intended as subliminal racist code.

Am I confused? Is this 2006 or 1956? Are we to believe that the typical Tennessee voter is still hung up on decades old prejudices and stereotypes? Are these apparently racist voters, that the RNC is supposedly targeting, the core of the Democrat voting base they can't afford to lose if they are going to regain the Senate majority?

Not everyone fell for the false indignation as blogger Kibitzer hits the nail on the head:

"The fact is, the 'racism' in the Playboy ad was altogether in the eye of the beholder. Instead of trashing those hard-working Tennessee country folk whose retrograde ways are largely manifested by a shortage of Starbucks franchises in their neighborhoods, heal thyselves, physicians!

Look in your own subconscious minds. That's where the connection between that sassy party gal and some lurid 'racial' scenario came from. Otherwise, you would have seen what you were meant to see — a suggestion that Harold Ford, bachelor and man-about-town par excellence, had too much of a yen for the fancy life. That's all."

RNC spokeswoman Camille Anderson said, "Whether it's the congressman's careless lifestyle or liberal record, Harold Ford seems like a better fit for his hometown of Washington, D.C., than for the state of Tennessee."

Harold Ford Jr. has made a name for himself by disguising his liberal stripes and framing himself as a moderate, independent-thinking Democrat.

He went so far as to challenge Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for her leadership position.

Perhaps the reality is that despite Harold Ford Jr. being too moderate for Nancy Pelosi, he is simply too liberal for Tennessee.

And perhaps those who see racism all around themselves should take a look inside their own soul for a change.