Peter Hoekstra certainly launched a small to-do the other day with this ad released for the SuperBowl broadcast in Michigan.
One can see what the message goal was, that the Obama administration response to the economic crisis plunged us into hock to the Chinese. However, as the saying goes, it’s all in the execution. One doesn’t know whether to flunk the campaign for its political tone deafness, its failed advertising, or for flunking strategic thinking.
The politics, like too much of the current conservative thinking, is especially deaf (blind?) to the actual deeds. Move past 2009, and stances now condemned by Mr “Spend-it-Not” were apparently business as usual. Over his tenure Peter Hoekstra voted to add more than $5 trillion to the deficit — the dreaded free-spending Democrats, spending it now? A net increase of $800 billion (see the chart from the Washington Post). The resulting deficits are simply the engine that drove the economy into the hands of foreign investors. Peter “Spend-it-Not” Hoekstra? Alas, only if this isn’t the same Peter Hoekstra who once served in Congress.
One may also point out that the Senator hasn’t been sitting on her hands.
Stabenow, who’s running for a third term, has pushed for trade policies aimed at China that impose duties and penalties on countries that manipulate their currency and penalize companies that steal intellectual property from U.S. companies.
But let’s talk about the imagery used. Racist? Xenophobic? Those are the words of GOP consultant Nick De Leeuw.
“Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement,” De Leeuw wrote on his Facebook page Sunday morning. “Racism and xenophobia aren’t any way to get things done.”
As far as advertising goes, the image is further off. If it is about the Chinese (or East Asian) trade imbalance, it’s off target. We don’t have the trade imbalance because we spend too much on rice. Bluntly, had she been on an assembly line, or inside a factory it would have had more edge. (And there is the odd, Viet Nam vibe to the whole this something of a dog whistle to the old guard right.)
This all returns to the strategic judgement of the candidate himself. Sound advertising, particularly the high visibility, Super Bowl kind, needs to be on target all the way through. For a former vice president of marketing, this is embarrassing. Strategically one cannot say “I did this to raise visibility.” The racial question is not simply whether or not he dealt fairly with East Asians, but rather one of the future: will he deal fairly with other minorities. In today’s diverse public, that is not something that should be risked.