But the irony isn’t lost on anyone that now, while Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has conservative party elders lining up neatly behind him, it’s the Bernie people who are threatening to go all Invincible Hulk on the Hillarians.
Yes, in yet another impossible-to predict turn, it looks like the Dems might be the party headed toward a brokered convention, or a sickening, 1968-style melee. Meanwhile, otherwise long-time, devoted friends who find themselves in separate Dem camps are insulting and blocking each other.
In an earlier column, I mentioned how candidate Trump mowed down all of his competitors while upending accepted wisdom about the need for Big Data, or Big Money, to win an election.
Forget the mainstream media, which has so far failed to predict much of anything accurately. Is this the election for which trolling, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and unfiltered death threats set the tone? Are we all turning into "X-File"-style Mulders and Scullies?
More importantly, while we are seeing how the demand for anti-establishment outsiders is subverting conventional party institutions, are we also observing the breakdown of the power of conventional media institutions?
For instance, what has changed about TV advertising this time around?
For one, it's the sui-generis-ness of the Trumpster. He's probably the only candidate ever who could reliably replace the effectiveness of a pricey TV campaign with a single, authentically thumbed, 2 a.m. hate tweet. Or retweet, for that matter.
That's a pretty stark contrast to the $40 million that Jeb's PAC spent on creating anti-Trump messages. Can you remember any of them?
Some of the Republican challengers spent tons on spots that attempted to be original or clever — but given our unrelenting 24/7 news churn, were instantly outed for containing embarrassing errors.
Marco Rubio tried to pull off a sophisticated frame-by-frame match up of Reagan’s iconic “Morning Again in America” ad from 1984. The pictures were the same, but cheaply reproduced with stock footage.
And the voiceover, rather than offering hope, surveyed the complete disaster of what the Obama years have brought us. Not only was it a hugely depressive downer, but the spot got attention only for the mistake it opened with: a shot of sunlight on the Vancouver harbor, complete with a tugboat proudly flying the Canadian flag.
Cruz’ team also came up with a satiric, high-concept ad, showing people seated in a circle at a support group—a meeting of “Conservatives Anonymous.” It becomes clear, while showing each other compassion, that they are trying to get over their anger about being abandoned by Rubio's flip-flop on immigration.
It got points for really getting into the weeds of the issues, and using a contemporary set-up, but before it could even run, one of the actors in it, who played a glum, but reasonably attractive housewife type, who had one spoken line, was somehow identified as a porn star named Amy Lindsay.
The Cruz camp pulled the spot immediately, and Lindsay, in turn, showed up all over the airwaves during an otherwise slow news weekend saying she was a conservative Christian mother just providing for her family with her acting career, and was pissed at Cruz for overreacting.
So, whether due to stupid mistakes, the increasingly fractured media environment, or Trump the king of earned media, has the pro-forma political ad, as created by powerful consultants, officially gone the way of the Gallup Poll?
Not completely. The only ad that seemed to break through this political season was Bernie Sanders’ “America.” Impossibly upbeat, but thrillingly sweet, it used the calming lilt of the famous Simon & Garfunkel tune (Starting with the lines “Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together…”) as a backdrop to golden cuts of Bernie shown hugging lots of kids, women, and especially people of color.
In between, we saw Bernie in shirtsleeves walking with locals near bales of hay, and also meeting with them in coffee shops, with sped-up images of the thousands and thousands of individual $27, teeny-money donors who made the campaign possible. It ended with Sanders triumphantly speaking at the stump, spreading massive amounts of hope. Feel the goosebumps.
I can't say that any of Hillary Clinton's ads have been as memorable. The best, I think, is the little square that runs on the side of my Facebook feed that says, “I’m with her.” No voice, no name needed — just three simple words, suggesting all of what being pro-Hillary means. She gets it.
Moving forward, my feeling is that in this agitated, hyper-angry climate, Hill should take her ad cues from Bernie, and take on the high mantel of pure positivity. Her ads should show un-staged images of her, captured on the campaign trail, embracing her passionate followers — and connecting with them in a meaningful way that has yet to be conveyed. This would elevate the discourse at a time when “going negative” also seems to have little impact.
As people get more polarized, and the numbers of moderates decline, the audience of “persuadables” is also shrinking.
Oddly, PACS from both parties have created ads that put Trump's more vulgar, hostile, female-baiting statements in the mouths of plain citizens. They are awful to watch, but probably won't do much to change the minds of Trump voters.
They tend to respond that he only says these things because he's not a “real” politician, or alternately, that he's not PC — he's honest, but he doesn't mean them (the voters) when he says those negative things.
Is this the triumph of Internet culture, and all the stomach-churning, flaming bits of insults that it brings? It's sometimes the political equivalent of Reddit and Tinder, where you vote up or down, swipe left or right.
The rest is wrestling.
Sadly, I already have PTSD about this election, and we still have six months to go.
Anybody want to start a support group?