During this year’s Super Bowl, Pete Hoekstra, former Michigan Republican Congressman currently running to replace Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow, launched a state-wide 30-second ad campaign called “Debbie Spenditnow.” For those of you who haven’t seen the ad, you can view it below.
We’re not really surprised that the video has gotten some heat for being racially insensitive and offensive. New Yorker blogger, Evan Osnos, describes the now-viral ad as such: “[The spot] opened with the sound of a gong and showed a young Nondescript Presumably Scary Asian (N.P.S.A.) riding a bike between rice paddies, and saying, in broken English: “You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs.”
Osnos then goes on to discuss the “rookie” racial and political mistakes that Hoekstra and his campaign team made. While the ad is supposed to be anti-China, the backdrop appears to be Southeast Asia. Then, “every Chinese reference, more or less, has a mistake. The Great Wall of Debt came out as the Debt that the Great Wall Owes.” Apparently, Hoekstra barely has a “basic group on the mechanics of his government.” He accuses the Democratic party of borrowing more and more, when in reality, China hasn’t been a major buyer of U.S. treasury notes on the margin for a several years (Victor Shih, Chinese economics and politics expert, Northwestern University).
Disgrasian calls the ad a “hot mess of Vietnamese mise-en-scène standing in for China, California Girl-speak poorly disguised as bad Engrish, and some requisite chinky background music–managed to piss off Dems and Republicans alike with its creepy, unabashed Fear of a Yellow Planet storyline.”
Accompanying the television ad is a website called debbiespenditnow.com (a horrible pun on Stabenow’s last name), which is chock full of Asian cliché. Disgrasian says the campaign site’s “Chinese take out font [dares] a half-blind person to stumble upon the site and try to order dinner from it.”
Kathy Barks Hoffman, for the Huffington Post Politics blog, worries that this ad could “revive discrimination against Asian-Americans.” Osnos too, pointed out that by inciting such xenophobia, “Hoekstra will be responsible if Asian-Americans end up subjected to the kind of discrimination in Michigan that took the life of Vincent Chin (the Chinese-American man beaten to death in 1982 by two unemployed autoworkers frenzied about the threat from Japan).”
The ad will continue to run statewide over the next two weeks on cable shows with a high Republican voter demographic. Hoekstra has defended the ad, saying that it “jumpstarted the debate” over deficit spending and that the “aggressive approach…hits Debbie smack-dab between the eyes on the area where she is most vulnerable.”
But really? When is it ever okay to use racial prejudices as political leverage? What are your thoughts?