Today I saw this campaign ad, which ran during the Superbowl, for Michigan Republican Senate-hopeful Peter Hoekstra. In the ad, an Asian [presumably Chinese] woman says:
“Thank you Michigan senator Debbie Spend-it-now. Debbie spends so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you Debbie Spend-it-now.”
And if that weren’t enough, the website for debbiespenditnow.com is full of stereotypical Chinese imagery interlaced with statistics about how the red menace is eating our lunch thanks to the Democrats.
It doesn’t upset me so much that the campaign could afford a Superbowl commercial, yet couldn’t be bothered to find an actual Chinese person to act in it – instead opting to use an American-accented woman offensively feigning Chinglish. What bothers me is that the old foreign menace political tactic is still being used as much as it was 50, 100, and 500 years ago… and it’s still working.
This election season is already shaping up to be the most xenophobic ever (and given the 2010 election, that would be quite a feat). In a special election last summer Nevada congressman hopeful Mark Amodei ran an ad with the PLA marching on Washington and hoisting the Chinese flag atop the capitol building – suggesting a scenario that could not conceivably happen. Sure, plenty of people decried it; just as they are now for this new Hoekstra ad. But in the end, Amodei won in a 58-to-36% landslide.
Throughout history, when a hopeful leader has nothing real to put on the table, caricaturizing and exaggerating a foreign rival to whip up nationalistic support has been a go-to short cut to power and influence. None of the great progress in technology and education has changed that. So we still see plenty of modern democratic leaders using the same playbook as some of history’s greatest monsters.
Every time I see this tactic employed in the US toward China, I think of routine statements by Chinese leaders like Hu Jintao – who said last month, “We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China.”
For leaders that are supposedly so ideologically different, they can look pretty similar sometimes.
[UPDATE 1: Apparently Peter Hoekstra’s Facebook page started deleting negative comments on a thread with this video today until the link was finally taken down completely. When I said he and Chinese leaders look pretty similar, I didn’t realize it was this identical.]
[UPDATE 3: A February 5th press release on this ad from Hoekstra’s campaign website (highlights added by me):
“Holland, Mich. – Hoekstra for Senate today launched a new television ad and website that calls attention to Debbie ‘Spend-It-Now’ Stabenow’s dismal record on spending, the national debt and jobs, which has increased our reliance on foreign countries, including China. The ad and DebbieSpendItNow.com contrast Stabenow’s big-spending policies with Pete Hoekstra’s penny pinching agenda.
‘Debbie Spend-It-Now has increased our national debt, cracked the foundation of our economy, and bolstered our reliance on foreign countries like China,’ said Hoekstra. ‘The growing dependence on China, which Stabenow’s policies have fostered, weakens our economy and jeopardizes our national security. We can’t afford it any longer and it’s time to hold Debbie Spend-It-Now accountable for her reckless agenda. My views on the economy and jobs could not be more different. I will be a penny pincher in Washington, working to not just pass a budget, but balance the budget so we can break free from our reliance on China and other countries.’
The $150,000 ad buy begins on Sunday, February 5, and will run for two weeks. To view the ad, please click here.”]