Hoffman: Another TV ad from the 1st District

Looked at from this distance, the contest for the 1st Congressional District GOP nomination has looked like a case of Sanford sitting atop the name-recognition hill, and Larry Grooms exerting the most energy trying to take it from him.

A third candidate I keep hearing from (and let me remind you that my perspective is skewed by the fact that I keep hearing from this guy and Grooms; others could be running just as hard but not making the effort to let me know about it) is Jonathan Hoffman.

No, I hadn’t heard of him, either, so of course he’s running a standard “I’m not a politician” campaign. To the extent that is appealing, he certainly has an advantage over Sanford and Grooms.

But this new TV ad tells me next to nothing. It shows him in uniform, and I thank him for his service. It shows him with the last Republican president. He uses the word “conservative” only once in 30 seconds, which by Republican primary standards shows extraordinary restraint. Of course, he uses other phrases that suggest such values to the base, such as “small business owner.”

And he makes the usual dubious claims that Republicans in SC tend to believe as gospel, such as:

  • He wants to be elected “to take on out-of-control spending and the growth of government.” Compared to what absolute measure, I find myself wondering. It’s interesting to contrast this belief to what I read this morning in the libertarian Economist, which, after asserting that “By most measures Mr Obama’s positions have been rather moderate,” notes that the public now is in a more conservative mood: “The conservative idea that spending must be cut is taken for granted, even though government spending is already lower in America than in most advanced economies.” Did you catch that? Looked at from outside, the U.S. government is not some out-of-control behemoth. It is only that to people who choose to believe it is.
  • Then there’s this chestnut: “let’s get back to constitutionally limited government.” Something that, of course, we’ve never left. He doesn’t have to explain what he means because no on in the GOP base would challenge him on it. Me, I want details. Back during the Bush administration, Democrats would say this very same silly thing. They were usually referring to the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 measures that Democrats as well as Republicans voted for and legally passed, under lawmaking provisions of our, ahem, Constitution. Now, Republicans generally mean something like Obamacare. Which, according to the GOP-appointed Chief Justice and a majority on the Supreme Court, is constitutional. Or is he referring to killing U.S. citizens with drones and without the benefit of due process? If so, I’d like to hear him square that with is standing shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush in fighting the Global War on Terror, which the current president is only guilty of pursuing a tad more aggressively than his predecessor, casting drones far and wide and putting boots on the ground in the very heart of Pakistan.

Mind you, I’m not being critical of Mr. Hoffman. He’s not doing a thing that pols of both parties don’t do in this ridiculously facile medium, the 30-second ad. It would be practically impossible for him to answer the questions he raises in my mind within that format.

But these ads aren’t meant to answer questions. They are meant to communicate, in the most minimalist, Gestalten flicker, a set of emotions along the lines of “he’s like me,” or “I trust that man.” So they deal not in facts, but in presumptions, ones that are shared, even if they fly in the face of reality.

Grooms’ ads are the same. Sanford’s go a bit farther, because so much is known about him, and some of what is known is problematic and has to be addressed. But it is of course addressed in the most emotional, simplistic kind of way, merely communicating, “You must not hold it against him.” Why? Because “I trust that man, despite all.”

But it is on these extremely thin, grossly inadequate bases that we decide elections in this country.


6 thoughts on “Hoffman: Another TV ad from the 1st District

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, this is how Hoffman describes his status as a “small business owner,” that class of men in whom, in the base’s estimation, all the virtues that made this country great are vested:

    Recently, Jonathan co-founded Solitical, a technology firm devoted to increasing the ability of citizens to participate in elective politics and influence their elected and unelected officials alike. He has worked to make sure the voices of all citizens can be heard by those who serve the voters. Jonathan understands the needs of small business – specifically the tech industry – in the 1st District working to grow in these uncertain regulatory and economic times.

    In other words, his business is politics. So while he may not be a professional politician, I suppose he in in his own way a political professional. I don’t see that as a problem, but I thought it was worth pointing out.

    1. susanincola

      This is a very small business right now — the site first posted something in June, and right now there are maybe five semi-active users of his site, most of whom seem to be friends. Some of the postings are from his developer as test postings still. An admirable effort — I applaud anyone who does the entrepreneurial thing, so I’m not knocking him for that. But if “small businessman” implies some real level of business experience, he hasn’t been at it long enough to get that yet — he’s still very much in startup mode. I’d be surprised if he’s far enough along to be process a payroll or deal with workers comp insurance, e.g. Probably hasn’t even done his taxes for the first time. He filed with the Sec of State’s office for a company called Summit Strategies, LLC on 1/10/2013, but don’t know if that’s related.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I signed up for it and played around with it a bit after posting this. I find myself wondering whether these guys have made any money from this. If so, I want to know how, since I’m always trying to figure out how to do that with my blog (which, unless I’m terribly mistaken, has a LOT more traffic than Solitical).

        At least he didn’t make the usual “I’ve met a payroll” claim. I don’t think he could have done that.

        But I wish the young man well. The idea may have potential. But it’s far from reaching critical mass at this point, near as I can tell.

        Oh, another point: I looked at the site’s blog, and in a post called “Solitical in the news,” I found a link to this Greenville Business Magazine story. It says “Solitical was started by five Greenville guys,” one of them apparently being Mr. Hoffman. That was in November. Now he’s running in the 1st District…

        1. Silence

          Brad – I think you are missing out on an opportunity to monetize the comment section of the blog. Basically, it would involve paying regular commenters based on the frequency and quality of their contributions to the issues being discussed. I think this idea has merit. While it might not generate positive revenue immediately, if you made a long term investment in the program, I think it would pay off over time through increased traffic, and lively, improved, insightful discussions. You should try it out for a few months.

        2. susanincola

          I went to the article — those guys look like the pictures of the posters on the site — so now I’m guessing the five guys I saw who had postings in the Gallery are just the five founders.

  2. Mark Stewart

    There is that and, oh, also that he spent about 7 months in the private sector – straight out of law school.

    At least he presented an image of trustworthiness; Sanford’s made me guffaw at his pandering and Grooms’ couldn’t escape the snake oil charm of the flim flam man.

    This is such a difficult race for the citizens of South Carolina. We will end up with seven little placeholders without a forward looking thought among them.

Comments are closed.