Every election year we can expect political ads to be good, bad, ugly, wrong, stupid and questionable. Although intended to inform the public about how good the sponsored candidate is or how lousy the opponent, the usual outcome is neither. What we normally discover is that candidates think the voters are stupid or whoever produced the ads are REALLY stupid.
This year’s “Oh No You Didn’t” award goes to the Nikki Haley campaign. The Republican incumbent governor of South Carolina has an embarrassingly pandering TV ad in which she talks about saving a girl from committing suicide. It’s a terrific story, but one you let others tell and NOT in a campaign ad. Not just awkward, but it’s almost painful to watch Haley pat herself on the back for a humanitarian gesture not related to governance. Yeah, it’s supposed to be targeting bullying and comes with the tag line “I have your back,” but Nikki Haley isn’t going to be the guardian angel of every child who is bullied, nor is she gonna be on the end of every suicide hot line call.
OK, so Nikki Haley is a nice person who reached out to a teen with problems. Great. How many other people do the same thing without advertising it? What’s the point of this ad as it pertains to electing a governor?
This ad was a dumb idea and the only thing it says about Nikki Haley’s qualifications as governor is that she is listening to the wrong people for advice.
And then there is state senator Vincent Sheheen, Haley’s Democrat opponent. His “We just can’t trust Nikki Haley” ads conjoin the usual half truths with fear mongering and slick production. The series of spots shows either a woman at home or a business owner lamenting the 2012 data breach at the South Carolina Department of Records. Ignoring the fact that both federal and state law enforcement requested the governor not make the breach public for a couple of weeks, the ads don’t just imply that Haley kept it secret, but subliminally suggests something far more nefarious.
Despite the advice of the experts to keep the breach quiet at first, Sheheen insists that was the wrong thing to do. Frankly, given the observation above about Haley’s advisers, she actually should be applauded for doing what non-political pros recommend.
Using the “we have a right to know” canard, the Camden Democrat is telling voters that if he is elected, he’s gonna do whatever he wants and damn the trained specialists. That leads us to believe Vincent Sheheen knows everything there is to know about everything. So, I’m waiting for the ads that tell us what he’s done in the State Senate that qualifies him to be governor.
We will see more pitiful electronic attempts to secure our vote this fall. Some will be even worse than these two. In fairness to the public, they should come with warnings like those for medicine:
“May cause headaches, dizziness, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting or unconsciousness. Do not swallow whole. Consume with a grain of salt and only under the supervision of an informed adult.”