Is This Political Ad Racially Offensive? Or Just Intellectually Offensive?


In Michigan, a state that has been an economic disaster for going on 30 years, there's a Senate race gearing up between incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Republican challenger Peter Hoekstra, a former long-time congressman.

The ad below was paid for by Hoekstra, a.k.a. "Pete Spend It Not" and aired during the Super Bowl in certain Wolverine State markets. It attacks "Debbie Spend It Now" and uses a Chinese-American actress speaking broken English to drive home the idea that our government borrowing lots of money is helping the Chinese get rich.

Bonus points, too, for the using stereotypically "Chinese" music, including shimmering gong sound, and footage of rice paddies. In terms of cinematic cliches, about the only missing is a blind Shaolin monk, a ritual incantation that "we need more Calgon," and maybe Sir John Gielgud playing an inscrutable and unconvincing Asiatic.

But is it racist? The Detroit Free Press reports

Black ministers in Detroit and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote group's Michigan chapter both called the ad racially insensitive. The other Republicans running for the Senate nomination said it proved that Hoekstra is not the best candidate to take on Stabenow in November. Democrats were united in their criticism and even some Republicans called the ad racist, xenophobic and "really, really dumb," in social media postings.

To which Hoekstra says

the ad, which was filmed in California and featured an actress whose parents are 100% Chinese, was only insensitive to Debbie Stabenow, whom he called "Debbie Spend-it-now."

"The Chinese benefit from the recklessness of U.S. spending. It doesn't criticize the Chinese at all," he said.

Regardless of the race issue, there's a tougher issue that "Pete Spend It Not" should be forced to confront:

Democrats were quick to challenge the premise of the ad, referring to Hoekstra's 18 years in the U.S. House and the fact that he joined a Washington-based law and lobbying firm last year.

"Hoekstra's ad is nothing more than a hypocritical attempt at a Hollywood-style makeover because the fact is, Pete spends a lot," Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said. "Hoekstra voted for the $700-billion Wall Street bailout and voted for trillions more in deficit spending before quitting Congress to get rich at a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm."

Which really gets to the heart of the matter of why Michigan is such a sorry place: The folks there really don't have good choices to make, except to leave the state altogether. Which is of course what people have been doing.

Whole Free Press story here.