The Internet and news circuits have been a buzz the last few days over a Texas gubernatorial campaign ad.. The ad, paid for by the Wendy Davis Campaign, highlights the fact that her opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, is wheelchair bound as the result of a tragic accident.
There’s a time and place for negative ads. I’m not about to argue that they can’t be good or can’t help foster a discussion about the issues, because they can. However, a line is crossed when a negative advertisement serves not to spark a dialogue but rather to remind voters about an opponent’s disability.
Blatant falsehoods presented in the ad aside, it’s important to ask a big question: why did Wendy Davis choose to remind viewers of a terrible event in her opponents life rather than simply stating her understanding of the facts? Perhaps it is because relying on the facts alone would be difficult for her. The facts she used were flimsy, so she instead took the path of a desperate, losing politician.
Davis became a media darling because she said the things the media wanted to hear and she said them well. Her rise to fame was so predictable it borderlines on nauseating. It’s like there is a foolproof plan to liberal stardom: talk about women’s rights, tell some lies, and attack anyone (especially women) who disagrees with you. Her stardom is predicated on her fight for the legality of abortion after 20 weeks, a stage in the pregnancy where many scientists and doctors agree the baby can feel pain. I suppose it shouldn’t be all that surprising that her campaign has resorted to schoolyard bully tactics.
Texans, are we no better than this? I want to believe that we can stand up against this kind of hatefulness. I understand the diversity of opinion that exists in this state, and I respect that. While I may not agree with those on the left, I would never advocate for any sort of campaign media that highlights someone’s physical disability.
I’m relieved that I’m not alone in my concerns: even a panel on MSNBC refused to praise the ad. So what did Davis do in light of the criticism? Admit the ad went too far? Apologize for any offense she may have caused? No, she held a press conference featuring supporters in wheelchairs, as if the problem could somehow be fixed by saying “Hey, look at me! I like the disabled!” If you have to try that hard to prove that you aren’t a hateful individual, you’ve probably already lost.
The sad reality is that Davis’ ad is a disturbing addition to a trend of ridiculous, fear inducing advertisements presented by the left. Recently, a Democratic group released an ad tying the Ebola outbreak to budget cuts by Republicans.
The message here is so manipulated that when I first saw it I thought it had to be some sort of satire. With the closing line of “Republican Cuts Kill”, it just didn’t seem like it could be serious.
But it was serious, and those behind the ad perversely decided to blame a devastating epidemic in West Africa on Republican lawmakers in the United States. The ad’s message seems to be that spending cuts halt research, but juxtaposing that message with images of dead Africans leaves no other logical conclusion: the left, once again, wants mainstream Americans to believe that Republicans don’t care if people die.
I’m all for discussing the issues and bringing to light inadequacies of both parties, but is there really no way to do this without evoking images of bleeding children or empty wheelchairs? Is there really no way we can cave that conversation without labeling one side as heartless, soulless, money-grabbing murderers? Of course there is a way, but doing so would expose the lies and reveal the truth. That is something that some on the left aren’t prepared to confront.
The ad blames Republicans for cutting spending to the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Disease Control, claiming that such cuts are responsible for the devastating effects of Ebola. But if we take a closer look at what the NIH actually spends their budget on, it’s hard to see how the Republicans are the villains for voting to reduce that budget. In recent years, NIH has funded (among other absurdities) the following research: the effects of massages in rabbits, whether mediation can cause weight loss, why Chimpanzees throw their poop and the ever important question of whether heavy drinking can lead to feelings of immaturity. (I’m currently in college, and the answer to that is yes.)
The CDC is no different, spending much of their budget on things like a fitness center for their workers, one of which boasts saunas, light shows and zero gravity chairs. The CDC choses to invest in things like erotic writing workshops, a magazine that explores important issues like how much alcohol to serve at a good party, and a bar night for HIV positive men.
So to act like these agencies budgets, if not cut, would be solely dedicated to true humanitarian efforts is at best laughable and at worst dangerous. It’s dangerous because a lie like this, a lie that paints Republicans as so cold and out of touch that they don’t care about death is a disgusting misrepresentation. The mission of this brand of negative ad is not to inform but rather to instill intense fear.
Like I said earlier, negative advertising isn’t inherently evil, and criticizing an opponent or an opposing party on the issues is important. But attacking them on their disabilities or labeling them as cold blooded killers crosses a line and serves no beneficial purpose in a healthy democratic society.