Sunday, September 29, 2013

Can An Ad Win An Election?


Politics as a bloodsport even predates Ted Cruz immigrating to the United States. Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr weren't dueling over a damsel. That video above may win a congressional seat for Carl Sciortino because people like the message. No, not especially the messages on the Blue America billboards based on the video, although those are popular messages in MA-05. But it is the message of comity between an unabashed progressive and a Tea Party member that makes it so compelling. The moment I saw it, I sent it to Norman Lear, creator of All In The Family. Norman loved it, of course.

DWT and then Blue America endorsed Carl last February. Since then, there was a slow build as other progressives joined the fight on his behalf: Alan Grayson, People for the American Way, a plethora of Massachusetts progressive groups, Congressmen Mark Takano, Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Jared Polis... And then the ad came out. Suddenly the campaign was on everyone's radar. Several hundred thousand people viewed it online. It was played over and over on national and local news shows, Carl's contribution rate skyrocketed and his polling numbers started moving, especially among people who had seen the ad.

In their new book, Predisposed-- Liberals, Conservatives, And The Biology Of Political Differences, academics John Hibbing, Kevin Smith and John Alford, cite a definition of American's two political parties from Clinton Rossiter's classic work on political science, Parties and Politics in America:
Democrats: Sweaty, disorderly, offhand, imaginative, tolerant, skillful at give-and-take.
Republicans: Respectable, sober, purposeful, self-righteous, cut-and-dried, boring.
OK, this is before the advent of the Tea Party and before the Beltway Democratic Establishment transformed into "your father's Republican Party" in response to the Republicans transforming into a neo-fascist, anti-democracy operation. But travel back to 1968 for a second when ABC-TV hired conservative movement founder William F. Buckley and author Gore Vidal to serve as analysts-- and sparring partners-- at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. The country was torn apart over Vietnam a the time and the debate was nothing like the lovable back-and-forth between Carl Sciortino and his father in the ad up top. Here's an infamous minute of it:

Predisposed characterized Buckley and Vidal as "smart and hyper-articulate, and their plummy, East Coast establishment tones made them seem so, well, civilized. Perhaps they could demonstrate a more mature way to deal with political differences. Or not.
In their most famous exchange, on April 27, 1978, Buckley asserted that Vidal was unqualified to say anything at all about politics, calling him "nothing more than a literary producer of perverted Hollywood-minded prose." Vidal retorted that Buckley "was always to the right, and always in the wrong," and accused him of imposing his "rather bloodthirsty neuroses on a political campaign."

After that the gloves came off.

"Shut up a minute," said Vidal. Buckley did not shut up. Vidal called him a "proto- or crypto-Nazi." Buckley was not happy with that. "Now listen you queer," he said. "Stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddam face." Buckley went home in a huff and sued Vidal for libel. Vidal went home in a huff and, perhaps miffed that he didn't think of it first, counter-sued Buckley for libel.

So much for a civilized exchange of views.
Quite the contrast with the Sciortino ad and the follow-up appearances all over television with his father!

If you'd like to help Carl keep the ad running on TV, you can contribute to his campaign here... even if you're in the Tea Party.

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