“The Dance of the Low-Sloping Foreheads” is what the New York Times’ David Carr called the Midwest on Bill Maher’s Time-Warner-CNN-HBO series back in 2011. Today, fellow Timeseunuch Mark Leibovich piles on:
Joni Ernst, the Iowa state senator and Iraq War veteran, was standing in a barn in a purple flannel shirt and an unzipped vest. Beside her, various swine burrowed in the hog lot; two small pigs spooned; there was copious squealing. When Ernst, who grew up on a farm castrating hogs, opened her mouth to speak, she drew the inevitable connection between her upbringing and her current role as a Republican candidate for the United States Senate. “When I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” Ernst said, smiling. Title cards reinforced her credentials. (“Joni Ernst: Mother. Soldier. Conservative.”) “I’m Joni Ernst, and I approve this message because Washington is full of big spenders. Let’s make ‘em squeal.”
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Ernst is not the only candidate to have brought such a Capra-esque advertising strategy to this year’s midterm elections. Something Else Strategies, the media-consulting firm responsible for “Squeal,” also masterminded a widely noted spot for the Republican Mike McFadden, who is challenging Al Franken for his Senate seat in Minnesota. McFadden, a former college-football player who now coaches a youth team, recruited his players to appear in a “Bad News Bears”-style spot in which they mess up handoffs (“Washington is fumbling our future”) and clobber each other (“Obamacare needs to be sacked”) before the coach rouses them to “get out there and hit somebody.” At that point, for no particular reason, one player hits him below the belt, leaving the coach to recite the “I’m Mike McFadden, and I approve this message” bit in a high-pitched squeal — the universal signifier of a guy who has just been hit in his junk.
Critics of the McFadden ad questioned whether such a joke might fall beneath the dignity of a prospective United States senator.
Stop the presses:
After much pigeon-chested thumping against Ernst, McFadden, Ted Cruz, the Founding Fathers, and (of course) Sarah Palin, Leibovich writes:
Palin may have had a rare talent, if somewhat limited appeal, but the outsider streak of this year’s midterms comes in response to a unique and distinctly awful political landscape. Not only is President Obama’s popularity in free fall, but whatever Everyman credibility he mustered during his “Washington Outsider” candidacy in 2008 has long since been dissipated through the regal isolation of his office and the suspicion that he is aloof and presumably ill equipped at castrating hogs. He is, in other words, politically toxic. Braley was willing to abide a visit on his behalf from Michelle Obama, but he undoubtedly benefited from the fact that the first lady repeatedly mispronounced his name as “Bailey.”
The Times’ dilemma is an existential one: in 2008, they did everything they could (and more) to clear the path for the president of their dreams. He’s done everything they could have asked of him: bankrupted the nation, stoked racism across the land, screwed Iraq and Israel, and implemented socialized medicine; now the paper is angry that the rubes in flyover country get their say as well. And they’re not at all happy about that.
As the late Kenneth Minogue wrote in the New Criterion in the summer of 2010:
My concern with democracy is highly specific. It begins in observing the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents. Ministers of state have been known to instruct us in elementary matters, such as the importance of reading stories to our children. Again, many of us have unsound views about people of other races, cultures, or religions, and the distribution of our friends does not always correspond, as governments think that it ought, to the cultural diversity of our society. We must face up to the grim fact that the rulers we elect are losing patience with us.
We must also face up to the grim fact that journalist we don’t elect are losing patience with us as well. Let’s give them quite a hangover when they wake up on Wednesday morning.