First, there was the Lena Dunham ad – released by the Obama campaign – in which Dunham riffed coyly on a girl’s “first time” as an apparent metaphor for voting. Make Obama the one for you, was the point of the ad.
Then came the creepy ad for Obama – not released by the Obama campaign itself – in which ghoulishly lit children sang Stalinist social-justice accusations against their parents.
Now comes an ad produced by Michael Moore – not released by the Obama campaign itself – in which old people talk trash about Romney and sex and a granny drops the F-bomb.
What constituency are these ads supposed to be appealing to? The dreck coming out of the American left is indescribable. Where are the people who are motivated to vote – for Obama – by these videos? Who are they?
The easy answer seems to be “college students.” But I’ve known a lot of college students in my time, and I can’t say I’ve ever known any who would have thought these appeals made political sense. The Lena Dunham ad is just too coy, for one thing. It has all the subtle cool of a Tomahawk missile. Miss Piggy would have been a much better choice, if the ad was going to go over the top anyway.
The Stalinist-children ad might – might – appeal to a narrow constituency in the undergrad ranks. But it’s also over the top. My sister still suspects it may be an Onion parody. It’s utterly tone-deaf. Who in America, of any age or background, finds it appealing to see children, lit weirdly, in black and white, chanting sonorously the political talking points of the hard left? Even if you don’t know anything about Joseph Stalin, the Great Purge, or encouraging children to accuse their parents to the Soviet authorities, you know this isn’t right.
Children don’t behave like this. This is an adult ideological fantasy. When children are actually dragooned into political chanting, they’re adorable and multi-hued, anxious to please – and you feel sorry for them because they’re being mistreated by adults on an ideological mission.
It’s hard to imagine any constituency at all for the Michael Moore ad. Perhaps the Jackass: The Movie production team might think there was some fun to be had with this video, but there’s no one else. People know old folks, just as they know children in living color, and with charm and individuality. An ad like this is too weird, too discordant with what people know. And I can vouch for 99% of the American public when I say that no one is interested, for any purpose, in watching seniors display their potty-mouth chops. It’s just unpleasant; the kind of thing only boys in their teens ever think is worth any precious time – and no more than a minority of them, for that matter.
It’s a bit pathetic, in fact, to think that this is what the American left has got. There’s no cleverness. No persuasive discussion of issues – just base appeals to a rote list of entitlements and talking points, made with the aid of sophomoric shock presentations.
And frankly, that’s an insult to sophomores, who mostly have more compunction and a better sense of seemliness. But it shouldn’t really surprise us. The left has reached its reductio ad absurdum point, and its truest believers are revealing what it actually is, and has been all along: a force of anger, resentment, and negativism for which no amount of progress is ever enough. The left doesn’t have a positive vision. It lives by accusation, fear, and fury.
To observe this is not to say that all Democrats partake of this character. There are still Democrats in politics and the punditry who retain the comparative moderation of the party 40-50 years ago. But they do not guide either the party or the public mind of the left. In terms of vision and ideas, the American left is today in the hands of the Michael Moores.
The old-school moderate Democrats have, after all, no new ideas. The progressive idea of ever-expanding regulation by unelected agencies is now more than 100 years old, and it is the biggest and most important fact of our political and economic environment today. It’s done; the suggestion that it still needs doing is laughable. It is the status quo.
The Democratic Party is wholly sold out to that progressive idea. Its agenda hasn’t changed since Woodrow Wilson was elected in 1912. Moderate Democrats can be nice people, but they still have no hope of seeing beyond the regulatory juggernaut and the welfare state. They have no concept of an alternative.
So their most famous appeals to the public are now being made by the nut-fringe leftists who still have political energy. The appeals are made to shock the bourgeoisie, as if the American election of 2012 were being dragged by its heels through a Hieronymus Bosch painting. I may be wrong, but I assess the constituency for this approach to be very small. Americans aren’t so far gone that we don’t know when disturbed people are trying to sell us cow chips.
**Update**: See also Robert Avrech’s take on the Stalinist-children video at Seraphic Secret. He makes a pop-culture association I couldn’t quite put my finger on while writing this post — and another very thought-provoking association as well.
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