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The DCCC’s Bad Ad Team

As a pure political tactic, getting started early with the message that Republicans voted to end Medicare sounds like a winner for Democrats. But I will veer slightly into a different kind of analysis for the moment.

Why would you play this funny? Why give the message that old people are worthy of derision, essentially because they’re old? This looks like a really bad Super Bowl spot when the issue discussed is deadly serious. Republicans are claiming that the ad represents “scare tactics” but no, I could show you scare tactics. A closeup of a senior’s hand as she struggles in the last throes of life and then pulling out to reveal she’s laying on the middle of the sidewalk as white men in suits ignore her, that’s scare tactics. This looks like a GoDaddy ad.

Furthermore, it gets progressively worse. The lemonade stand shot is fine, but then you have the lawnmower riding played for laughs, with the jerk owner of the lawn telling the old man that he missed a spot. Still generally on point, but discordant; why is the focus on basically getting amusement out of the old man’s condition with the walker? And then there’s the strange third segment. When the bachelorettes come to the door, I have no idea what’s going on. The old guy is dressed like a firefighter, and given that the women are all screaming, it’s just as plausible at first glance that he’s moonlighting as a firefighter. Indeed that’s a concern in a world without Medicare; the elderly will extend their working days to keep a hold on their employer-provided health insurance. Only a few seconds later do you figure out that he’s a stripper, and are again told to laugh at the old man’s expense.

Who the hell did this ad? Why would you wring out all the pathos and human consequences out of ending Medicare in favor of “cutting through the clutter” and going all jokey-jokey? By the way, advertising is ALL clutter these days; there’s no real way to cut through it without being real. And when you have a storyline like ending Medicare, I don’t know why you would go any other way.

Even if this ad were funny, which it isn’t, the subject of the comedy is completely misplaced. Would an old person watching this and seeing people their age held up for ridicule have a better opinion of Democrats?

But, you might say, they got the facts out. It says right there that Republicans voted to end Medicare. Who cares? The narrative of the story is generally a light one, where old people have to work demeaning jobs and we derive pleasure from that spectacle.

Obviously, one ad isn’t going to change people’s views on the subject; it isn’t going to change much of anything. But it strikes me as a missed opportunity to clarify the record. An ad that said “Republicans voted to end Medicare” over and over for 30 seconds would do the job better and you wouldn’t have to hire a septuagenarian who’s comfortable in a feather boa. In fact, I know it does, because the DNC ran that ad back in 2009.

So in addition to having contributions go to save the most conservative Blue Dogs in the most conservative districts in their re-election efforts, DCCC donors just paid for this, where the party takes a winning issue and inexplicably lampoons it.

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David Dayen

David Dayen