On Monday, a group called the Latino Victory Fund (LVF) tweeted:
"In a desperate attempt to become Virginia’s next governor, Ed Gillespie has eagerly embraced racism and xenophobia. We refuse to stand by as Gillespie slanders our families and portrays our community as thugs, criminals, and gang members."
The LVF says its aim is to build "Latino political power by electing progressive Latino candidates to all levels of government." And this is the ad they choose to start with. The ad depicts how children run away in fear from a pickup truck, that has a 'Don't Tread On Me' front license plate, a Confederate flag in the back and an Ed Gillespie campaign bumper sticker. All of the children are minority children, including a Muslim girl wearing a hijab, an African-American boy, and two young Latinos.
Now, using children as shock value to make a political ad is certainly not new, we all remember daisy girl countdown in 1964, but this is a whole other level. This is quite absurd, I haven't seen anything like it since the Dwight McKenna coroner ad "Igor". The implication here is that the pickup driver is out to murder the children. "Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by 'the American dream?'" the ad voiceover asks, before telling voters to "reject hate" in the November 7 Virginia election. It's a bizarre political ad in the way the 1985 Social Democrat "Why should we care about each other?" was, but without any of the creative execution and elevation to proper absurd. Instead, it straight-faced and serious, suggests that pickup truck drivers are out to harm minority kids.
The local paper The Daily Progress notes that both parties campaigns are playing fast and loose with the truth; "both also have deliberately stirred up our deepest and most vulnerable fears in a bid for political gain." Like the Sweden Democrats ad of 2010, this ad pitches people against people, however, it doesn't have a point to make other than "run, kids!" which is a bit bizarre. At least the SD ad, simplistic as it was, pinpointed a budget issue where pensions would shrink if other budgets got larger. This ad just suggests that kids are having politically themed nightmares. There are so many bad things in this ad, from the end where it was all a dream and these kids are now "woke", to the fact that hijab-girl even sleeps in it. Seriously, guys? You don't know a single woman who wears one, do you? It's an item only worn outside the house, you fools. It's certainly not a night-hat. You couldn't tokenize hijab-girl harder if you tried.
Reactions on Twitter were loud and immediate. In general, people were shocked at the tone;
Group’s ad depicts pickup truck with Gillespie sticker chasing and trying to run down kids. Don’t ever lecture about “divisiveness” again. https://t.co/Fxyu65T9Qj
— Jim Geraghty (@jimgeraghty) October 30, 2017
Then, tragically, a terrorist attack happened in New York City, where a truck ploughed down eight pedestrians. We've seen this kind of attack many times in Europe, it's now actually "part and parcel" to borrow a phrase. Suddenly, this ad looked even worse, and the Latino Victory Fund decided to pull it. Not because they think this ad is bad, mind you, only due to "recent events." Cristóbal J. Alex, the group’s president said in a statement:
“We knew our ad would ruffle feathers. We held a mirror up to the Republican Party, and they don’t like what they see. We have decided to pull our ad at this time. Given recent events, we will be placing other powerful ads into rotation that highlight the reasons we need to elect progressive leaders in Virginia.”
Client: Latino Victory Fund