As I sit watching the new MoveOn.org ads, I’ve noticed a strange — and discomforting — criterion I’ve been using in judging them and their potential effectiveness. Rather than merely focusing on the message of the ads (which are meant to tell the stories of folks who voted for Bush in 2000 but plan to vote for Kerry this year), I’ve also been judging them by the race of the person featured.
It’s a conscious move, oddly enough. I noticed it when I viewed the first ad featuring an older African-American gentleman. His message was strong and clear, but I gave the ad a four (out of five) because of his bright-colored shirt and his race. I thought to myself, “No, no, Republicans will never go for him. He doesn’t fit their mold. They’ll make fun of his sort of traditional shirt.”
See, I’m operating off of what I know of Republican demographics, which are really what you would expect: white male Protestants living in the suburbs (according to a statistical analysis I did for a class last year). And I think that, to truly appeal to them, the Democrats must speak through someone from within their group.
So, among those I rated low, I nixed a young former computer technician with unkempt hair. He wasn’t cleanshaven enough for the Republicans, I thought, and he hadn’t made his case for voting for Bush in 2000 — he was too gung-ho Kerry to be a believable former Bush supporter (sympathizer?).
The highest rating I’ve given was to a white general contractor who discussed how rising inflation had hurt his business. That, to me, seemed the spirit of the Republican Party talking to its footsoldiers. Here was a guy who fit the socioeconomic background and talked about the harm that had befallen his business as a result of inept Bush administration policies.
No matter that my racism might be justified (in some weird way) in this instance or that my criteria include class and age and other physical appearance attributes along with race, I am still made uncomfortable by the fact that race is actually factoring into my decisions.
On the other hand, though, maybe the Bush campaign should be worried that so many people assume it isn’t the party of minorities.