RGA ad reminds us that real-life national politics is WAY stupider than ‘House of Cards’

Vincent Sheheen’s campaign is lashing back at the Republican Governor’s Association ads attacking him for supporting Medicaid expansion.

It is, as the Democrat says and The Washington Post has noted, bizarre for him to be attacked for that when the chairman of the RGA, Chris Christie, supports that part of the Affordable Care Act, too. As have other Republican governors.

Note the Democrats’ spoof of the RGA ad below.

But that’s not what is most remarkable about the original ad. What is most remarkable about it is just how unbelievably stupid it is. Rather than discuss the merits of Medicaid expansion and making whatever arguments it can come up with against the idea, the ad simply says “Obamacare” over and over and over and over.

Yes, we know that that one neologism sums up the entire national Republican strategy for 2014 (even more than it did in, let’s see, 2010 and 2012). Everything else — such as the crusade against spending that was once deemed so important that it was worth destroying the full faith and credit of the national government to fight — has been shoved aside for that.

But come on, people. Make an effort to form a coherent thought here.

Anyone trying to find a logical train of thought in this ad will likely get a headache instead. It opens, for instance, with “Well first, Sheheen supported much of Obamacare. But then, he refused to support the lawsuit to stop it.” The narrator’s voice drips with irony. But in what universe would there be a “but” joining those two thoughts? Why would anyone who supported much of a thing join in a lawsuit to stop it?

After that, anyone trying to think about the ad is sufficiently thrown off balance that he hardly has the attention span left to protest that the bit about “millions of families losing their health plans” has absolutely zero to do with what Sheheen favors, that it is in fact the opposite of what he favors, since he wants to expand coverage. And since when did Medicaid expansion cost jobs? I thought it was refusing to expand Medicaid that cost jobs. Wait a second…

But the ad is over. And all you’re left with is this echo of “Obamacare, Obamacare.”

Let’s give the people who made this ad some credit. Let’s assume they’re smart enough to know that the ad doesn’t make sense, that they’re just being stunningly cynical. But they certainly believe the rest of us are stupid enough to go along.

Now, finally… I said this ad was “remarkable” for its insult to our intelligence. But that was a poor choice of words. Most political ads are more or less this stupid.

Last night, I saw the last episode of the new season of “House of Cards.” This morning, I saw this ad. And I’m struck by how much stupider real-life national politics is than what is depicted on that show. Frank Underwood and his fellow plotters may be amoral, wicked, devious and manipulative. But at least they seem to be clever about it.

It’s hard to see any sign of anything remotely like cleverness or subtlety in the way politics is actually conducted in this country — particularly on the national level. Which is why it’s so offensive to see a state election such as this one nationalized. Again.

21 thoughts on “RGA ad reminds us that real-life national politics is WAY stupider than ‘House of Cards’

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Of course, the seventh episode of the second season — or Chapter 20, if you’re counting that way — begins with a political attack ad that is in the same style as this one (an ad that leads to huge consequences by the end of the season). But as much as it dumbs down what is going on in that fictional universe, it’s not as dumb as this one…

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, here’s something else in that same dumb vein.

    I just ran into this ad over at Slate. In case you can’t call up the image, it says “Should the GOP Fight Obama on Gun Control? VOTE NOW! YES NO.”

    Fight Obama on gun control? Um… doesn’t it take two to have a fight? Doesn’t the president actually have to be trying to DO something about gun control, as he sorta kinda started to do a year or two ago before being utterly shut out of accomplishing anything, after which we haven’t heard a word from him on the subject?

    Yeah, I know, I know, I’m talking about the real world, and not that inhabited by people who have been convinced — based on what, I don’t know — that that awful Obama fellow would be coming for their guns, ever since his first election (remember the run on ammunition right after Election Day 2008? Get it before it’s banned!).

    And the goal of preservefreedom.org is apparently to keep people believing that, and keep them stirred up about it.

    Which is our politics today in a nutshell — keep ’em mad, and keep the contributions coming in. On the left, it’s the imaginary War on Women (or on working people, or pick your aggrieved group). On the right, the imaginary War on Guns (or on our “freedom” in general, which is apparently what that awful Obamacare is all about). Just keep the foolishness churning…

  3. Doug Ross

    You don’t like the ads, but I’m not so sure you are as opposed to the companies that create them. You seem to be a fan of those organizations.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Hate the sin, love the sinner. 🙂

      Seriously, I don’t write off human beings because they are part of a rotten system, even when they actively embrace that state of affairs.

      We are all deeply flawed. I’m flawed in so many ways that I wouldn’t know where to start. Perhaps some of the people who produce these ads lack the flaws I have…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        For instance, I hate the Democratic and Republican parties. But if I proceeded from that to hate everybody who is a Democrat or a Republican, that would mean I’d have to hate most of the newsmakers I’ve had to deal with professionally. And I don’t. Not by a long shot.

        Hey, I don’t even hate libertarians, or isolationists. And you know what I think of THOSE points of view. 🙂

        1. Doug Ross

          The ads wouldn’t exist without the unethical people who get paid to create them.. the ones who do significant research and testing to determine which keywords work best. These are people with no moral compass. They are driven by two things: money and winning. But I suppose you think they’re just doing their jobs… and if you had to hold them accountable for their actions, it might make it tougher for you to associate with them.

          Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t bad, he was just part of a system that allowed serial killers to thrive.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    FYI, here’s the text of a letter Sheheen sent to Christie:

    March 3, 2014

    The Honorable Chris Christie
    Governor of New Jersey

    Dear Governor Christie,

    A governor’s job is to lead and act in the best interest of the people of their state. You rightly made that argument last year when you chose to expand Medicaid in New Jersey.

    You said: “Accepting these federal resources will provide health insurance to tens of thousands of low-income New Jerseyans, help keep our hospitals financially healthy and actually save money for New Jersey taxpayers…[it] is the smart thing to do for our fiscal and public health….Refusing these federal dollars would not mean that they wouldn’t be spent. It just means that they will be used to expand health-care access in New York, Connecticut, Ohio or somewhere else. … It’s simple. We’re putting people first.”

    Just five days ago, you affirmed your position in your budget address – saying you were “proud” to have expanded Medicaid in New Jersey.

    You and I have the same position on this issue—keep our own federal tax dollars working for the people of our states.

    Then today, the Republican Governors Association, which you Chair, launched attack ads against me for taking the same position that you and seven other GOP Governors have taken on Medicaid expansion.

    The RGA ad claims that the choice to bring our tax dollars back in-state would hurt South Carolina. So, I ask you: How many jobs has New Jersey lost as a result of your decision to accept your Medicaid dollars? How many New Jersey businesses have been harmed by your choice to put your state’s tax dollars to work back at home? And how much has this expansion cost the taxpayers of New Jersey?

    Independent research has shown that bringing South Carolinians’ hard-earned tax dollars back into our state would create 44,000 jobs and boost South Carolina’s economy. The South Carolina Hospital Association has stated that, “The evidence is overwhelming that expanding Medicaid will be good for people and good for business in South Carolina.” They have joined with health care providers around the state to warn of the loss of thousands of jobs and the negative economic ripple effect that will be felt throughout local communities as a result of the choice not to take the expansion. Editorial boards and local Chambers of Commerce have told us that the only reason someone would oppose the expansion is politics, pure and simple.

    So please – provide us with the numbers on the impact that your choice to accept federal Medicaid dollars has had on New Jersey to clarify this matter once and for all. And if, as you predicted, that choice to reclaim your state’s tax dollars has benefited New Jersey, then I call on you to have the RGA take down this misleading attack ad.

    The problem with Washington, DC and national politics in general is hypocrisy. Leaders driven by self-interest who disregard facts in favor of ideology are no leaders at all. And all of our states deserve better than these kinds of hypocritical and underhanded tactics.

    I look forward to your response.

    Thank you,

    Vincent Sheheen

  5. Phillip

    Today on Andrew Sullivan’s blog I read of a fundraising letter from Rep. Robert Pittinger of Charlotte’s congressional district, who is Chairman of the Congressional Taskforce on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. His letter included this paragraph:

    “You see, I am already on the front lines, taking seriously my oath of office: to defend the U.S. Constitution — and you and your fellow Americans — against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And for that I am being attacked from all sides, including from my fellow Republicans. My friend, make no mistake, Barack Obama is Enemy Number One!”

    If, as chairman of this task force, Rep. Pittinger is supposedly knowledgeable about threats to our nation from Al-Qaeda and the like, for him to declare the President an enemy of the United States is like those who handed out the “JFK: Wanted for Treason” flyers in Dallas, only this time with the imprimatur of an elected member of Congress. We live in a time of divisive politics, but this seems to represent the crossing of a new line.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I found it. Here’s the link.


      Yeah, I know how bad things are. I know how low our political discourse has sunk. I know the American people have been tolerating this kind of garbage for a long time.

      But still, I marvel. Still, I wonder how anyone who could put out hateful, moronic trash like that could possibly get elected in this my country, the country I love.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        By the way, Sullivan is nominating that for what he calls the “Hewitt Award.” Here is a guide to the various Awards assigned by the Daily Dish:

        The Malkin Award – named after blogger, Michelle Malkin, is for shrill, hyperbolic, divisive and intemperate right-wing rhetoric. Ann Coulter is ineligible – to give others a chance.

        The Yglesias Award – for writers, politicians, columnists or pundits who actually criticize their own side, make enemies among political allies, and generally risk something for the sake of saying what they believe.

        The Moore Award – named after film-maker, Michael Moore, is for divisive, bitter and intemperate left-wing rhetoric.

        The Hewitt Award – named after the absurd partisan fanatic, Hugh Hewitt, is given for the most egregious attempts to label Barack Obama as un-American, alien, treasonous, and far out of the mainstream of American life and politics.

        The Dick Morris Award (originally the Von Hoffman Award, until readers pushed for a name-change) is given for stunningly wrong political, social and cultural predictions.

        The Poseur Alert – awarded for passages of prose that stand out for pretension, vanity and really bad writing designed to look like profundity.

        The Hathos Alert – for moments when you want to look away but cannot. Hathos is the attraction to something you really can’t stand; it’s the compulsion of revulsion.

        1. Doug Ross

          I propose you come up with your own awards:

          The Dougie : Given for the most knee-jerk anti-government diatribe presented in the least compassionate manner possible

          The Silence: Awarded to the commenter who can make the most obscure pop cultural reference while still remaining on topic

          The bud: Recognizing excellence in blaming the rich for any problem and assigning the greatest percentage of luck to any successful endeavor

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            The Kathryn: For excellence in defending her buddies in city government and opposing advancement by edifice.

          2. Doug Ross

            Gee, I was going to categorize The Kathryn as staunchly defending local government in the face of all evidence to the contrary while negating the opinion of anyone who does not live 365 days a year within the boundaries of said location

  6. Michael Rodgers

    The RGA ad reminds me of this ad opposite-quoting President Obama.
    Anyway, another problem with the RGA ad is that Gov. Haley had already pivoted beautifully from TEA Party insurgent to responsible governor with her most recent state of the state address in which she made education and infrastructure her top priorities. Rejecting the Medicaid expansion was her largest — and perhaps sole — anchor keeping her tied down to TEA Partydom. She’s not being primaried this year; she can easily go after the moderate middle, and she was galloping joyfully down that path.
    Now, if Obamacare is the issue for November, then the SC Chamber of Commerce and every responsible organization will have to — because they’re for law and order and against nullification — put their might behind Sheheen.

    1. Michael Rodgers

      Here’s what the SC Chamber said recently, from the ‘and another thing’ blog,
      “Several groups have publicly stated opposition to continuing the unconstitutional fight for nullification, including the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the Business and Industry Political Education Committee and the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance.”
      and, painstakingly,
      “The PPACA has been challenged, ruled on and found constitutional. It is now law. South Carolina now must move forward and work to provide health care for citizens and reduce costs.”

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    In case you haven’t had enough, I just spotted this companion ad over at thestate.com.

    When you click on it, it leads to this page, which is confusingly called “Blue State Madness.” Which would indicate that it has nothing to do with South Carolina.

    Then, after calling Vincent Sheheen “Vince,” which to the best of my knowledge is just something Republicans call him, it says, “The Republican Governors Association launched the first television advertisement today in the South Carolina governor’s race which outlines State Senator Vincent Sheheen’s continuing support for ObamaCare, a policy which has already proven a national failure and would wreak havoc on South Carolinians under the ‘full speed ahead’ mentality Sheheen has demonstrated.”

    Which provokes the following questions:
    — “continuing support for Obamacare” — I didn’t know that’s what we were talking about. I thought it was just about Medicaid expansion
    — “has already proven a national failure” — Really? I was unaware of that. I know about the problems with the website for a brief period, but since the program is just now getting off the ground (with key portions not even implemented yet), we are very far from knowing whether it will be a success or a failure or in-between. This is an especially weird assertion given that the portion of the ACA that we’re talking about — Medicaid expansion — hasn’t even been TRIED in SC.
    — “would wreak havoc on South Carolinians” — I know you assert this as an article of faith, but maybe you could take a moment and sketch out exactly how you think that would happen. Because I’m having trouble picturing this “havoc.”
    — “full speed ahead” — What’s wrong with “full speed ahead”? Wasn’t the problem with the Obamacare launch one of delays — that people were having trouble signing up on time? Doesn’t “full speed ahead” sound more like something that is at least functioning? So wouldn’t that be a GOOD thing?

    Unless, of course, your problem with Obamacare was NOT that it’s not working, but that you don’t WANT it to work. Right?

  8. Karen Pearson

    Just wait. It won’t be long before there’s a political ad linking Mr. Sheehan to the Benghazi attack. After all, everyone knows he and Obama planned it, and then tried to cover it up.

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