MAGA, MAGA Man (and Woman!)
Political advertising can tell us a lot about the cauldron of stupid that counts for the GOP primary pool
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There is no better proof of the GOP’s ideological emptiness right now than political advertising commissioned by Republicans who hope to be their party’s nominees in 2022. Political consultants are riffing off country music, gun fetish, and survivalist themes, all of which say clearly to voters: we are already at war (actual war, not figurative) with the Democratic Party.
For example, take a recent tweet by MAGA Man Josh Mandel, who is giving J.D. “Hillbilly Elegy” Vance a run for his money in the Ohio Senate primary race. Vance, whatever else you want to say about him, is talking about conservative policy. Sure, he bent the knee to Trump. And yes, some of Vance’s platform draws on empty culture wars rhetoric. For example, a current popup on the Vance site demands that Merrick Garland resign as a ploy to collect email addresses and donations.)
But Vance also proposes positions that he might advocate for in the Senate: restoring the manufacturing base, prosperity, pro-small business, anti-Big Tech, and combatting addiction.
Mandel, on the other hand, literally has no policy ideas. None. His entire campaign rests on creating a plausible fiction that he is the most aggressive, masculine man on the planet. The central themes are: reassuring Ohioans that they can and should be armed, God is at their right hands, and their children should never have to learn anything about race in America.
But Mandel is also pushing another line that is common in the GOP: that “they” (in other words, liberals) “hate us” (translation: real Americans with traditional values.) In this tweet over the weekend, Mandel portrays himself, not as a future Senator, but a prepper:
Weirdly, in his Twitter and Facebook bios, Mandel—who recently declared in a debate that “there is no such thing as the separation of church and state”—also claims to be censored by Twitter and Facebook. Even though he is on their platforms telling outrageous lies…oh well, never mind.
The point is that political advertising on the right tells a story about America in which Republicans are literally under siege and have to fight back. This story relies on high levels of voter engagement with violent fantasies pumped out by mainstream media companies. One good example? Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s (TX-2) 2020 ad portraying Texas’s GOP delegation as a team of futuristic Avengers.
But these male fantasies are not exclusive to MAGA men. The MAGA Man has a counterpart, a MAGA Woman, who is not just patriotic and pro-gun but also super hot because of her love for guns. Women like Lauren Boebert (CO-3) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA-14), whose entire purpose in life seems to be generating gun porn and disrupting the business of our country, have ended up in Congress precisely this way.
The most recent heiress to this recent tradition is Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore, who launched a primary campaign for governor of that state with this video, designed to showcase not just the gun hanging off her hip, but her enormous breasts. You have to watch the ad.
Although Fiore served in the Nevada Assembly and the Las Vegas City Council for four years each, she says nothing about her accomplishments in either body and why they suit her for higher office. She has no platform beyond banning critical race theory, vaccine mandates, and election fraud (two out of three do not exist in Nevada, and there is no state-wide vaccine mandate.)
Let’s hope that Nevada voters will want to know more about Fiore than that Politico once called her “the Lady Trump,” which pleases her no end. Perhaps they will recall that she is a supporter of anti-government activist Cliven Bundy. Fiore also supposedly broke a fellow female legislator’s finger in a scuffle on the Assembly floor. She has been under investigation by the FBI since July for campaign finance violations. She thinks it is OK to shoot federal Bureau of Land Management agents and has said she would do it.
What does she have to say about all of this? “I’m a fighter!”
Demonstrating that you are a fighter is more important than what you might fight for in today’s GOP, and it is essential for women, who are supposed to be both tough and hot. If you watch the video, you might also note that although Fiore totes a gun and is often photographed with one, there is no evidence that she can shoot: she is out of the frame as those beer bottles explode.
But this quick tour through GOP political advertising should raise some troubling questions about what it means that the party is running candidates who have no ideas and invest in the fake culture war campaigns the national GOP promotes.
Don’t dismiss their candidacies as a joke: they are succeeding one by one.
The one where anti-semitic hate speech pushed by the white supremacist sites is an essential part of the Trump coalition has real-life consequences. Navigate to this Twitter thread by Carnegie Mellon economics professor Martin Gaynor, a survivor of the antisemitic attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, three years after the event. “I am one of the lucky ones - I managed to escape,” Gaynor writes; “11 innocent people were murdered that day simply because they were Jews. Do not forget them.” (October 24, 2021)
The one where Glenn Youngkin—who won’t let Trump campaign for him—takes cash from a dark money funder who backed J6. According to Igor Derysh of Salon, Restoration PAC “has spent $1.767 million funding ads against [Terry] McAuliffe, making it by far the largest independent expenditure group in the race.” Shipping billionaire Richard Uihlein’s PAC is a significant funder of two groups that organized insurrectionists to come to the Capitol on J6, Tea Party Patriots and TurningPointUSA. (October 24, 2021)
The one where the GOP enters its Donner party phase. At The Hill, Caroline Vakil reports on some news zipping around Twitter on Saturday: two powerful SuperPacs are going after JD Vance in his primary campaign for the Ohio Senate seat that their political confrère, Rob Portman, will vacate. The Club for Growth and USA Freedom Fund are slamming Vance for anti-Trump statements and tweets in 2016 (he has since recanted them) and his 2017 statement that he did not vote for Trump. (October 24, 2021)